BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 17 Oct '18

Learn practical strategies for citizen-led tree planting – and even how to re-green deserts – at 2018’s Tree Conference

Taking place at the Merlin Theatre in Frome on Sunday 21 October (10.00-17.00), The Tree Conference 2018 will promote the message that it is possible to halt deforestation and increase forest cover worldwide.

The event will share practical solutions for preserving and renewing our trees and forests, strengthen support for people working with trees and highlight practical strategies for citizen-led tree planting.

The goal is to illustrate that large-scale reforestation and re-greening of deserts is possible, and that we can halt the destruction of the last of the Earth’s ancient growth forests.

‘The aim of the conference is to promote citizen-led reforestation and to highlight the crucial role trees play in mitigating climate change. Across Britain and around the world, our ancient growth forests are being denuded by industrial extractive projects whether for timber, fossil fuels or the rare and precious minerals we use for modern technology. Furthermore, EU trade deals for beef threaten the hydrological cycle of the Amazon. With party conferences thrashing out age-old divisions at Westminster, we’re calling for pre or post Brexit legislation to safeguard a positive reciprocal relationship between British citizens and nature to protect the precious land we live on, and which sustains us.’

SUZI MARTINEAU
Founder of The Tree Conference

Polly Higgins and Ecocide

One of the key issues being considered at the conference is the work of UK environmental lawyer Polly Higgins and her campaign to get ecocide added to the list of international crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The proposed law, which was tested in the UK Supreme Court in 2011, declares the destruction of ecosystems an international crime, alongside genocide and crimes against humanity, and would hold the perpetrators (CEOs and government ministers) personally accountable. This would include making the deforestation of ancient growth forests a crime.

Speakers at The Tree Conference include Isabella Tree, bestselling author of Wilding; scientist Dr Martin Bidartondo; Peter Macfayden, author of Flatpack Democracy; Ayana Young, host of the For the Wild podcast and Miriam Cisnoros, world expert on the Rights of Nature.

The Conference will also be attended by forestry experts from the Royal Forestry Society, conservationists from the Woodland Trust, food sovereignty representatives from the Gaia Foundation, global reforestation activists from TreeSisters, forest-defender film-makers from If Not Us Then Who?, leaders from local tree planting projects and millennial podcasters.

Below is a list of talks and speakers at 2018’s Tree Conference.

Global science update & the effects of excess nitrogen on soil fungi & health

Dr Martin Bidartondo

Martin has been a scientist for over 20 years, first at the University of California at Berkeley and then at Imperial College and Kew Gardens. He works on the ecology and evolution of plant-fungal interactions.

This talk will focus on Martin’s studies over the last 10 years, during which he examined forests below ground across Europe. He has been part of unearthing the effects of nitrogen pollution on forest mycorrhizas and exploring the ancient, globally widespread symbioses between lineages of plants and fungi.

Wilding, redefining forests and reforestation without planting trees

Isabella Tree

We can’t express what big deal we think Isabella Tree’s book is and the revolution it spells out between its covers. If any of you haven’t heard of Wilding, it’s the number one best-selling environmental book of 2018. It’s unusually well written and the research that informs it is exemplary – and shocking – and hope-filled in a practical way.

Isabella Tree’s book explores the history of this collapse and the trends in farming policy through the eyes of the landscape of the Knepp Estate, where she and her husband, Charlie Burrell, have embarked on a project to re-wild.

After decades of intensive farming, their 3,500 acres are now home to critically endangered nightingales, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies, as well as burgeoning populations of other species.

The success of Knepp, where habitats are created by free-roaming animals, is changing the way people are thinking about Nature conservation. It demonstrates, among other things, how trees can regenerate without human intervention and how important this kind of dynamic, open wood pasture system is for our native wildlife.

Re-storying the forests

Mary Reynolds Thompson

By highlighting the untapped potential within the English curriculum in schools, this talk will explore how we can support young people to develop their relationship with the natural world, as well as to empower them to feed themselves with the insights that come from quiet listening to themselves in Nature.

In this manner, they can become conscious of their particular passion for how they wish to influence the world, study the science, get engaged and make wise choices around their further education.

Mary Reynolds Thompson is an award-winning writer, facilitator of poetry therapy and a pioneer in the emerging field of spiritual ecology. She speaks and holds workshops around the world and has developed an archetypal model of transformation based on five Earth landscapes. She is an instructor for TreeSisters, a non-profit with the dual mission of empowering women and reforesting the tropics, and is core faculty for the Therapeutic Writing Institute, the leading training institute for expressive writing therapy. Author of Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness (a 2015 Nautilus Award Winner), she is currently working on her new book, A Wild Soul Woman.

Andover Trees United

Wendy Davis

Wendy’s slot at the conference this year will come in as part of Mary Reynold Thomspon’s talk about the use of creative writing in supporting people to explore their dialogue with the natural world. She’ll be bringing some of her students from Andover Trees United to the stage to talk about their experiences.

In 2011, Wendy founded and now coordinates Andover Trees United. As UK coordinator for UN Environment Programme Plant-for-the-Planet, Wendy also helps 8- to 14-year-olds to train their peers as Climate Justice Ambassadors.

International Tree Foundation

Andy Egan & Teresa Gitonga

Andy joined International Tree Foundation (ITF) in 2012. He has a varied background as an educator and manager in the fields of global education, community development, equalities and campaigns for environmental and social justice.

Andy has written global learning materials for schools in African and European countries on the environment, gender and health. Andy has a PGCE in Community Education and an MA in Development Education, and researched the role of global corporations in relation to human and planetary wellbeing. On a visit to Mount Kenya in 2013, Andy was inspired with the idea for ITF’s centenary campaign, 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests.

Andy will be joined onstage by Teresa Gitong. As an environmentalist, Teresa has over 10 years’ experience of empowering community-based organisations in environmental management. This includes forest and water resource management, community mobilisation and empowerment, re- source mobilisation and gender integration in natural resource management. Teresa holds a Master’s Degree in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science.

The Gaia Foundation

Peter Macfadyen

From Frome to California via Ecuador – at a certain moment people take power into their own hands and find ways to plant trees. The tree Conference has explored in depth our millennia-old connections to trees and forests and our symbiotic relationships. In a world where it sometimes feels we need to ask permission to do anything, or to wait until ‘they’ take action.

This session takes a look at three projects where ‘just do it’ is not a strap line for a brand of shoe, but a mantra that has led to real change at meaningful scale. It aims to encourage others to engage with these or similar projects; to collect seeds and fruit to grow trees and to plant them – with or without permission.

Reviving the Selwood Forest & citizen-led wildlife corridors

Julian Hight

Julian has been working with a group that’s looking to revive Selwood Forest that includes land owners, interested parties and the likes of the fabulous Ted Green. In his talk this year will detail this project and also provide a template to how we can be working together to create wildlife corridors in Somerset.

Julian Hight is a designer, photographer and musician. In his self-published book “World Tree Story”, Julian goes worldwide, collecting stories about important trees all over the world.

When viewed in a single book, this stunning collection of trees, along with their history, legend and mythology, presents an extraordinary record of the rich variety of ancient trees worldwide, whilst also telling a human story. A celebration of our ancient trees through words and pictures, the book ultimately calls for their preservation and conservation.

Millennials who are collect seeds for the whole forest

Ayana Young

Ayana is a lover and protector of wild Nature. She was studying Ecology at Columbia University when the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Amid the burgeoning resistance in Zuccotti Park, she co-created the Environmental Working Group to help orient the movement to the realities of a suffering planet.

From there she moved West to her beloved Cascadian bioregion, starting an organic farm and wild foods cartel on an Oregon mountaintop. In Portland, she had the fortune of learning from the herbalist Cascade Anderson Geller before her passing.

Ayana will be joining the conference via video interview from California. She will be talking about the 1 Million Redwood Project which is a project inspired by Ayana’s time with the Redwoods of California. It is dedicated to renewing and preserving the biodiversity and resiliency of Cascadia’s temperate rainforest through holistic research, biomimetic reforestation, land conservation and living libraries of native seed and fungi. The Tree Conference strongly advocates exploring this methodology in terms of whole forest seed collection.

Ayana also hosts the For The Wild podcast (formerly Unlearn & Rewild) and teaches about empowered Earth stewardship, leads biodiversity enhancement workshops and facilitates panels across North America.