“At first, I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.” — Chico Mendes, Martyred Brazilian environmentalist
Diana Beresford-Kroeger appears to be following the dictum, “Make no little plans.” The 71-year-old self-described “renegade scientist” has a plan to put everyone on Earth to work planting trees. Her “Bioplan” calls on every able-bodied person to plant a tree a year for six years to bring back the world’s lost forests.
Her work was the inspiration for a recent day-long, “Call of the Forest: Water, Climate, Spirit“ conference attended by more than 200 people in the Northern California seaside hamlet of Point Reyes. The event featured a special preview of Beresford-Kroeger’s forthcoming feature film, Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, inspired by her book, The Global Forest.
Her website calls the documentary, an integral part of her, “personal mission to educate 7 billion people about the trees outside their doors.” When completed in the fall, it will be accompanied by an extensive app to provide people with details about how and where to plant appropriate trees for their localities.
The film highlights forests’ importance for human welfare and for the sustenance of other ecosystems and species. Apart from the usual story of how forests purify the air and provide numerous other invaluable benefits, we learn, for example, that when a forest was clearcut in Japan for farming, the humus blew away and the land became arid and infertile.
To the surprise and dismay of local fishermen, the marine ecosystem downstream from the clearcut forest was also decimated — deprived of iron and other vital nutrients that had once run off from the forest. “The oceans feel the effect of a forest clearcut hundreds of miles away,” Beresford-Kroeger said.
A botanist and medical biochemist by training, Beresford-Kroeger is deeply concerned about the connection between deforestation and climate change. Deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gases, and growing forests sequester carbon and help regulate the climate. Her concern extends to the vast ancient boreal forest, which contains about a third of the world’s forest area. This enormous biome covers a large part of the Northern Hemisphere, and, because of its high latitude, is likely to be greatly affected by climate change.
Tar sands development has already destroyed many square miles of the Canadian boreal forest and an increase in fire and insect infestations related to climate change have also had a negative impact. “You can’t replace or replant the boreal forest complexity,” Beresford-Kroeger warns. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Beresford-Kroeger is not alone these days in calling for a massive, global reforestation effort. Earth Day Network has pledged to get 7.8 billion trees planted around the world within four years — one for every person on the planet by the group’s 50th birthday. Its Canopy Project has already planted over 3 million trees in 32 countries since 2011, concentrating on areas most in need of restoration.
The United Nations Environment Programme and its partners launched a Billion Tree Campaign in 2006, planting more than 12 billion trees in five years, according to their website, before turning the campaign over to the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation. The Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, which itself has planted 30 million trees since 1977.