2018’s Tree Conference at the Merlin Theatre in Frome was an inspirational, sell-out event that showcased effective strategies for citizen-led reforestation and halting deforestation worldwide.
Attended by a 240-strong audience, the event placed a core focus on supporting the younger generation to be resilient caretakers of the Earth.
watch out for burnout
In a Skype interview with the conference’s founder Suzi Martineau, millennial trailblazer Ayana Young, founder of the 1 Million Redwoods Project in California, spoke of the devastating effects of global warming she’d recently witnessed first-hand in Alaska, pointing out that practically nothing is being done to stop the destruction of our planet.
Ayana shared a powerful message for the next generation: ‘I want to tell the next generation to breathe. This is not going to end in their lifetime. We need to be committed to the long haul and watch out for burnout, and for things that can try to derail us or distract us, whether that’s social media, or human condition drama. None of that really matters when we actually look at what we’re losing.
‘We need to focus our attention, our energy and our love on the Earth, to what actually sustains life, and not get so wrapped up in this condition–distraction. So how can we be these strong, resilient warriors, and I absolutely we believe we can.
‘It just takes a lot of commitment, focus and getting outside our own ego and realising that perhaps our own lives aren’t for just us, but that we were brought to this Earth to be in service to something so much greater. And how beautiful, expansive and fulfilling that is when we can get outside of just ourselves and dedicate ourselves to being a conduit for life.’
‘Listen to us’
Writer Mary Reynolds Thompson gave a talk, calling for ‘deep imagination’ to be brought back into our school systems. ‘If we want to change the world, we have to change the story’, she said. ‘We are separate from the Earth is our dominant human story, we teach this to our children. Our imaginations are entwined with the Earth, it needs to take centre stage in our schools again.’
The Conference also gave the stage to four secondary school students to highlight what we need to do from their perspective. Wendy Davis, founder of Andover Trees United, which runs education, tree-planting and care programmes, accompanied Hannah Bradbury and Erin Hacker (GCSE year) and Megan Nikolic and Nicola Marshall (Year 8). Trained as ‘Plant-for-the-Planet Climate Justice Ambassadors’, the girls’ responsibilities include training their peers, reaching out to community leaders and local politicians.
The girls called for children and adults to work together, combining the strong imaginal capacity of children to re-envision the future with the aptitude of adults to turn ideas into action. ‘If we don’t do something then my kids might not get to know some of the animals in the wild and in the rainforests’, said Erin. ‘I learn about crude oil in school but not about its effect on the environment – changing the education system would be a wonderful place to start’, said Hannah. ‘Listen to us, we have lots to say, stop talking, start planting!’ urged Megan.