Holiday Blog Post

Happy Holidays!

As the songs go — “It’s the most WONDER-ful time of the year.. (Andy Williams),”  and, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… (Michael Buble)” . In our shared traditions for this special time of year, we both agree! And of course, holiday theme-songs that might be well-suited in particular to our Friends4Trees4Life blog include “Oh Tannenbaum” and Lady Gaga’s “Christmas Tree”.

As we learned for an earlier blog post, December tree-themed festivities, and the use of evergreen trees to symbolize “eternal life” are something shared in history among many societies, tracing back to traditions followed by ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. We learned that Western Germany is credited with the origin of the modern Christmas tree tradition, begun initially as a tradition of setting up a “paradise tree” adorned with apples on December 24th, to celebrate the religious feast of Adam and Eve.

December continues to be a time for many different holiday celebrations around the world and across various cultures, with many celebrations featuring “light” and/or “trees” prominently, including, for example, Hanukkah (the Jewish Festival of Lights from December 22 to 30 this year), Bodhi Day (Buddhists’ celebration of Buddha’s awakening under the Bodhi tree, with traditions of multi-coloured lights and beads on a fichus tree), Scandinavia’s Feast of Juul holiday involving burning a log in the hearth to honour Thor, Yalda (Persian/Iranian celebration of the birth of the sun god Mithra and the victory of light over dark),and Kwanzaa to celebrate African heritage and culture with traditions that include lighting the kinara each day during December 26 to January 1. Lucia understandably was delighted to learn about the Scandinavian celebration of St. Lucia’s Day at this time of year, which includes traditions of girls wearing wreaths with candles on their heads, and making fires to fight off spirits at night. To learn more about these and other winter holiday / solstice festivals you may wish to check this article at

How to Say Tree of Life in Other Languages

  • Spanish – arbol de la vida
  • French – arbre de la vie
  • German – Baum des Lebens
  • Arabic – shajarat al haya
  • Italian – albero della vita
  • Hindi – jeevan ka ped
  • Anishinaabemowin – Nookomis Giizhig
  • Japanese – Inochi no ki.

Book Recommendations

We’ve received book recommendations from several of our Readers that are tree-themed or climate action-related. Thank you!  We offer them here in case Readers are looking for a good read to curl up and relax with over the holidays.

Richard Powers,  The Overstory. (Pulitzer Prize winning novel)

“The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’ twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.”

Robert Mcfarlane,  Underland.

“Underland marks a new turn in Macfarlane’s long-term mapping of the relations of landscape and the human heart. From its remarkable opening pages to its deeply moving conclusion, it is a journey into wonder, loss, fear, and hope. At once ancient and urgent, this is  book that will change the way you see the world.” (

“The novel is about nine Americans whose unique life experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests.”

Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees.

 “In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.” (

Naomi Klein, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal.

Penguin Books says this book is a National Bestseller. A Must-Read book. Naomi Klein pairs a decade of her powerful writing on our acute environmental decline with new material on the staggeringly high stakes of what we choose to do next; and inspiringly offers here a politically viable, just, sustainable path forward.”

Michael Christie, Greenwood

A magnificent generational saga that charts a family’s rise and fall, its secrets and inherited crimes, and the conflicted relationship with the source of its fortune—trees—from one of Canada’s most acclaimed novelists

We found this Goodreads’ description of Greenwood to be an intriguing hook for wanting to learn more about the characters in this family – “It’s 2034 and Jake Greenwood is a storyteller and a liar, an overqualified tour guide babysitting ultra-rich vacationers in one of the world’s last remaining forests. It’s 2008 and Liam Greenwood is a carpenter, fallen from a ladder and sprawled on his broken back, calling out from the concrete floor of an empty mansion. It’s 1974 and Willow Greenwood is out of jail, free after being locked up for one of her endless series of environmental protests: attempts at atonement for the sins of her father’s once vast and violent timber empire. It’s 1934 and Everett Greenwood is alone, as usual, in his maple syrup camp squat when he hears the cries of an abandoned infant and gets tangled up in the web of a crime that will cling to his family for decades.”

Videos and Documentary Recommendations

On YouTube : Iceland Christmas Animated Video. (for the whole family)  – “Don’t buy products with palm oil- stop cutting down the rainforest”  at,

On YouTube:  Team Trees: A Blogger Fundraises to Plant 20 Million Trees, at:

On You Tube: What Trees Talk About, David Suzuki.

This Nature of Things episode on What Trees Talk About takes a revealing look at the secret lives of trees-how they communicate, wage war, and work together to transform the world.

Planet Earth – An 11-series Documentary by Sir David Attenborough

The BBC writes that, “Sir David Attenborough is one of the world’s best-known and admired wildlife film-makers. His incredible career watching wildlife as a naturalist and broadcaster has spanned nearly six decades. There are very few places on the globe that he has not visited.

“Over the last 25 years he’s worked with BBC teams on many landmark BBC series, of which ‘Planet Earth’ was one of the highlights. His first major series “Life on Earth” was watched by an estimated 500 million people around the world. His series are a benchmark of quality in wildlife film-making and have influenced generations of documentary film-makers.” The BBC’s Planet Earth video clips link:

Board Games

Blue Orange Games Photosynthesis Strategy Game

Friends4Trees4Life has found this cool, award-winning board game that we think is a perfect way for the whole family to have fun together learning about photosynthesis. This board game review and visuals have us hooked and keen to play:

“In Photosynthesis you are sowing the seeds to grow a beautiful woodland. As the sun moves around the board each day, you will harvest more sunlight with larger trees, which might overshadow others in the forest.

“Just by seeing the first images of Photosynthesis we knew it was a game we had to try. When it arrived, I relished the opportunity to punch out and assemble the cardboard trees that make this game look just as good, if not better, than most plastic miniatures games I’ve seen.

“Photosynthesis has been winning awards for its presentation, but everything about that presentation is core to the gameplay – which is a fantastic feat for an abstract game.

Photosynthesis Gameplay

“At the start of the game each player will take turns planting a tree until everyone has two small trees along the outside of the board. Every round of the game, each tree that isn’t obscured by shadow will generate sunlight, which acts as a currency to grow and spread your trees…..” Read more at:

Shopping Carbon Negative? Sheep Inc. Merino Wool

Get cozy and be the first in your circle to wear the world’s first “carbon negative” clothing item – a Merino Wool Sweater from New Zealand’s Sheep Inc.

According to this l’Officiel description, “Sheep Inc. aims to be carbon-negative without sacrificing quality. Their sweaters use 100% Merino wool, which is then hand-spun into yarn and dyed in northern Italy at a mill that employs a number of sustainable practices including sourcing all of its power from renewable energy. 

“Like other brands going carbon neutral, Sheep Inc. will be carbon offsetting, which is the practice of cutting carbon emissions to counteract the emissions that are unavoidable. To be carbon-negative, the brand is going the much-needed extra mile and offsetting more than it actually emits.

“Because of the urgency of the climate crisis, Sheep Inc. has decided…to offset ten times their emissions,” said Mark Maslin, advisor to Sheep Inc. and the head of climatology at the University College London. “  Learn more at:, or via Sheep Inc.’s website at (Apparently, they even give you a sheep!)

Blog Holiday Hours

We’ll be taking a brief holiday break ourselves – so we won’t be posting on December 26. Our next post will be on Thursday, January 2, 2020. We hope there will be lots of news to update our Readers about global climate action plans coming out of the annual UN Council of the Parties’ meeting which wraps up on December 13, 2019 in Madrid.

Until then, we thank everyone for engaging with us at Friends4Trees4Life. We wish all our Readers a Happy Holiday and a very Happy New Year! See you again in 2020!!

Tree Joys and Benefits

Imagine mornings, without coffee, orange juice or birdsongs. Or Thanksgiving dinners without apple pie. Weekend brunches of waffles, pancakes and French toast, minus maple syrup (perhaps substitute cactus agave?). Childhood memories of winter family outings into the bush, without the magical moments of sugaring off and the heady aroma as maple sap turns into syrup, or, camping and cottaging memories without the snap, crackle, pop of a brightly burning camp fire to sing and toast marshmallows around.

Banana splits, sans les bananes? Would marzipan be marzipan, minus the almonds? What of iconic images of tropical paradises of sun, sand and surf, without the swaying palm trees? What would August be like every year, without the prospect and pleasure of juicy, sun-kissed, tree-ripened peaches to anticipate?

Yes, human nutrition and experiences would be greatly diminished without these and many more bounteous edible offerings and simple pleasures that trees offer to us. To say nothing of the habitats they provide for insects and animals around the world. In fact, according to Science Daily at, one third of the world’s crops depend on pollination by insects and other pollinators that live in trees.

The world’s oldest boat building site is 8000 years old according to this Telegraph article at Would naval travel have taken longer to emerge in our history, if not for trees? Without trees, what would replace the iconic birch bark canoe in our Canadian imagination and cherished memories of northern canoe paddling adventures, real or imagined?  What subjects would have inspired the Group of Seven’s paintings?

Of course, human evolution would have taken place still without trees. Just differently. And yielding different (but still pleasant) memories.

Imagine if Canada might have chosen to enshrine the beaver or loon perhaps on our own flag when creating it for the first time in 1965, had maple trees not existed. How would this saying be transformed – “As American as mom and apple pie,” – in a world without apple trees? And, what would have prompted Sir Isaac Newton to ponder about gravity in the absence of this now famous apple tree?

Photo:MaryAnn Griffin

Robert Frost would have needed new inspiration and a different title to pen his poem, The Sound of Trees,, and Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem which begins “I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree….,” would literally be true in a world without trees, . Would Shel Silverstein have been inspired to write The Giving Tree, we wonder?

One of our favourite Impressionist artists, Claude Monet, might not have given the world the beloved Water Lily series of paintings, if not for the inspiration of the many willows in his gardens at Giverny. We found this site which offers images of 10 famous artworks inspired by nature, some featuring trees prominently,

Our imaginations and spirits can find inspiration in trees. Our hunger can be fed and nourished by the fruit they bear. And literally, trees keep us alive through the life-giving oxygen they produce. If that weren’t enough service, when we humans pollute the air we need to breathe to survive, trees act as “sinks,” capturing and absorbing life-threatening carbon dioxide emissions and converting them through photosynthesis to clean oxygen and nutrients. Pretty awesome powers and gifts to the world we think as we paused for a moment to consider trees anew, in writing today’s blog post.

Even five minutes around trees may improve health, says this New York State website, It goes on to list these additional health benefits, and at the bottom of the page, provides the reference list of scientific papers to back its findings, “Exposure to forests and trees:

  • boosts the immune system
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces stress
  • improves mood
  • increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • increases energy level
  • improves sleep.”

Additional health benefits, plus the supporting research, are described in this US News report,, and include asthma reduction, and a large-scale study which found that trees and greenery may even boost life span

Tree Canada’s website elaborates on Tree Benefits, noting that one in four pharmaceuticals are plant-based, including extracts from the yew tree which are used for the chemotherapy drug Taxol, In its extensive list of tree benefits, Tree Canada also offers this useful reference point as we are learning and thinking more about our own carbon footprints – “You need about 500 full-sized trees to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by a typical car driven 20,000 km/year.” 

This US study reported on the health and economic benefits of trees ($1B benefit to California from the presence of street trees) by comparing and contrasting two cities in California, one with an urban tree policy, and the other, without one The UK’s Guardian reports on research on the health benefits of living on tree-lined streets. It also discusses the Japanese practice and government health policy of shinrinyoku – literally forest bath – and its power “to counter illnesses including cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety and stress,” which western doctors are now discovering and agreeing on as benefits for human health and well being by mindfully spending time under a tree canopy and “getting back to nature,” even in urban settings

T-shirt: Etsy-Hibiscus Oak Designs

Finally, for the avid researcher, or for Readers who want more evidence, here is a link to a literature review on the scientific benefits of trees by the Chicago Region Tree Initiative on its website at  Our main take aways from writing this blog, are that tree benefits are powerful, personal (boosts life spans!) and planetary (essential to fighting global warming). Our “triple P” case for Tree planting!

Trees have brought us joy in many forms, either directly or indirectly. They have provided food, and sustained the life cycle as we know it. But that is not to say that, without trees, or with a limited number of trees, our lives would be less memorable. The memories would just be different. The point we think is that, in the future, we humans may destroy the opportunity to enjoy all the nutrition, activities, memories and life-sustaining clean air benefits that trees have provided us over the years. For millions of years evolution has been supported, fed, and nurtured by trees. In order to continue to be able to enjoy our historic pleasures, live and recreate fond memories, we need trees. Plain and simple. (Plus, human beings still need to do our part to change lifestyles and keep innovating economic practices in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, dramatically and with urgency).

T-shirt: Wholesome Culture

On that note, we were pleased to see that Climate Action got its own section in the federal government’s December 5, 2019 Speech from the Throne, including confirmation of Canada’s commitment to plant two billion trees as part of the country’s plan for meeting our 2030 and 2050 targets under the UNFCCC

This December 9th UN Climate Change update reports on promising steps being taken among members of the global data community for a common framework for “tracking the climate action of regions, cities, businesses, investors and initiatives which can help with the effective implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” . We’ll be watching for, and reporting back to our Readers on, the COP 25’s Closing Press Release expected on December 13, 2019; here’s hoping global leaders make rapid progress in converting their rhetoric into meaningful climate action for achieving a 1.5C carbon-zero Planet Earth asap.

Next Thursday’s post will be in keeping with the festive holiday spirit. We plan to offer tree-themed reading ideas from our Readers, and more, for those who are looking to relax and curl up with a good read over the holidays….then, we too will take a brief holiday break ourselves – so no blog post on December 26th. We’ll be back with our weekly post on Thursday, January 2, 2020. Please go anytime to our blog to check the Resources and other pages. We added a link in Resources to the blog: where you can see 5 cute tabletop Christmas tree alternative options. Thank you to our readers for giving us this link and others.

How Does the World Agree on Climate Action?

How do 197 sovereign nations agree on the need to row in the same direction on climate action to slow global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Since the UN is at its annual meeting on climate change this week (December 2-13, 2019), we thought some Readers might want to know a bit of background on the UN multilateral process that has been in place since 1994 (admittedly, it’s a dry topic with perhaps more appeal to policy wonks, historians and research types).

To start, here’s a one minute UN video clip with highlights of some innovative Lighthouse projects that are part of this international climate action work

The 197 governments, known as “Parties to the Convention,” each have ratified, and agreed to work under, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which provides the foundation for “multilateral action to combat climate change and its impacts on humanity and ecosystems. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement were negotiated under the UNFCCC and build on the Convention.”

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system.” It also states that “such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”

Since 1995, these 197 governments have met annually as the Conference of the Parties (COP) “to take stock of their progress, monitor the implementation of their obligation and continue talks on how best to tackle climate change.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the COP by setting principles, legally-binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, technology transfer mechanisms, funding mechanisms, and by commissioning research and assessments and more. It requires Parties “to develop a national inventory of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and to report on their mitigation policies and measures” by filing and updating Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) reports.

Of the 197 UNFCCC signatories, currently, 184 countries have filed Nationally Defined Contributions (NDCs), available at Canada’s, which we understand has yet to be formalized, is here, at More about Canada’s plan in future blogs.

These highlights are from “ Understanding the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Regime” – Please take a look, at

  • There is clarity on the science informing the need to act. This includes a 2014 synthesis report by Working Group 1 (WG1) looking at the science of climate change which is “categorical in its conclusion: climate change is real and human activities are the main cause.” Further, for the first time WG1 estimated cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since pre-industrial times – (CO2 being the most abundant GHG that has resulted, in particular, from burning fossil fuels) – and provide(d) a CO2 budget for future emissions to limit warming to less than 2C. About half of this CO2 budget was already emitted by 2011.”
  • “From 1880 to 2012, the average global temperature increased by 0.85C.”
  • “Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of GHGs, it is likely that the end of this century will see a 1-2C increase in global mean temperature above the 1990 level (about 1.5-2.5C above the pre-industrial level). The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24-30 cm by 2065 and 40-63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986-2005. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries, even if emissions are stopped.”
  • As there is a direct relation between global average temperature and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the key is “mitigation”. This means reducing emissions and enhancing “sinks”(e.g., increasing the area of forests). Trees matter!
  • “Climate change is inherently global in nature. The composition of the world’s atmosphere is impacted by GHG emissions for countries around the world, and the effects of those changes affect everyone.”
  • “The Convention puts the onus on developed countries to lead the way. As they are the source of most past and current GHG emissions, industrialized countries are expected to do the most to reduce emissions, that is, to implement measures to mitigate climate change.” These developed countries are referred to as Annex I Parties, and encompass all of the 1994 members of the OECD and include 12 countries with economies in transition from Central and Eastern Europe.” In its Annex B, the 2005 Kyoto Protocol “sets binding emission reduction targets for 36 industrialized countries and the European Union. Country lists and their ratification status, are here at
  • “The Paris Agreement’s (2015) central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change (adaptation), and at making finance flows consistent with a low GHG emissions and climate-resilient pathway.” Other essential elements are: long-term temperature goal; global peaking; mitigation; sinks and reservoirs; loss and damage; finance, technology and capacity-building support; climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information; transparency, implementation and compliance; global stock take; Decision 1/CP.21”.
  • “There will also be a global stock take every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.” (The next global stock take will be in 2023.)
  • “United Nations climate change conferences have grown exponentially in size over the past two decades …. and are now among the largest international meetings in the world.”

Access a three-page Closing Press Release from the special Climate Action Summit 2019, held in September in New York here, Closing highlights include, “65 countries and major sub-national economies such as California committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so…..Many countries and over 100 cities – including many of the world’s largest – announced significant and concrete new steps to combat the climate crisis…Many smaller countries, …., were among those who made the biggest pledges, despite the fact that they have contributed the least to the problem…Countries, including France and New Zealand, announced they will not allow oil or gas exploration on their lands or off-shore waters….The European Union announced at least 25% of the next EU budget will be devoted to climate-related activities…87 major companies with a combined market capitalization of over US$2.3 trillion pledged to reduce emissions and align their businesses with what scientists say is needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change – a 1.5C future…The Summit also delivered critical platforms for improving energy efficiency and reducing the growing energy needs for cooling…”

The UNFCCC annual meeting is currently underway in Madrid, Spain, December 2 – 13, 2019. The agenda and emerging proceedings are here, at

Thank you for reading this long Blog post. Next Thursday’s post will profile additional benefits of trees, beyond their critical role in carbon capture, plus any relevant press reports on, and releases by, the UNFCCC annual meeting for 2019. We’ll also start to look more closely into Canada’s plan.