One Year Reflections on Friends4Trees4Life

One Year Ago

Global warming and climate change are such enormous and complex issues. What action could one individual on their own possibly take that would actually make a difference and be part of solving the existential threat that is facing all of humankind?  How does our generation show younger generations that we care about this planet that we, and they, call home? How do we promote optimism about the future?

One year ago, we shared a conversation about these questions. We had a particular young adult in mind and were troubled by knowing that the overwhelming sense of helplessness about climate change and hopelessness about the future that he was experiencing, were contributing factors in his state of depression. We wondered what we might do to demonstrate that the actions of everyday citizens do matter and make a difference in a very real, tangible way. And, that there were reasons for optimism about the future of Planet Earth for generations to come.

So first we set about to become better informed citizens ourselves. We learned much in those early days. The research of Thomas Crowthers brought clarity to our sense of purposeful action. We would put our energies toward mounting a tree-planting campaign, and share what we were learning.

We wrote up a newsletter about Why Trees Matter, and emailed it out to our friends and relatives. At the beginning, we were thinking more in terms of event planning, something with a beginning and an end. It soon became clear, however, that what we really needed was some kind of ongoing online platform to enable us to engage with others and update what we were learning over time. We were mindful that we did not want to bombard people with a steady stream of e-mails! Our approach was and continues to be, invitational and respectful (we hope), sharing what we are learning about ways to make an impact on climate change, and leaving it to readers to decide what makes sense in their own lives.

And that is how our “idea and goal of taking concrete action” evolved rapidly from a campaign, to a newsletter, to starting our own Blog. About which we knew virtually nothing last year!

The Steep Learning Curve in Creating a Blog and Becoming Bloggers

Our experience with blogs at the time was pretty limited; neither of us really followed any bloggers regularly per se. So we just jumped into blogging with both feet, literally acting on the advice we read not to overthink or over plan and just learn by doing! It was a steep learning curve, but since Lucy joined Catherine in the world of retirement we figured we had time on our side. We decided to use because we knew a few people happily using this host, and now we too love this host. We decided to pay for a “personal package” to avoid having ads run through our blog. Lucy thought, “How hard can this be?” Very naive.

We chose the simplest format, since we are simply blogging and not selling anything. We tossed names around and bit by bit we created Friends4Trees4Life, since we are life long friends and we are blogging about trees. We thank Brenna, Lucy’s daughter, who created our logo. We thank Edmund, Catherine’s brother, for initial support with technology. With much trial and error Lucy created a home page. She even figured out how to get people to follow us and/or get our blog sent to their email. It was really hard to figure out the links and buttons that allow people to navigate the site, and the problem is, you cannot really know until you post the blog how and if the buttons work, but you do not want to post it until you have it right. So we set it up as best we could and populated a number of the sections, loaded up a post, and did a trial with family and that helped us work out a few kinks. Some things we still find a mystery, and sometimes we experience “gremlins” in our blog, but  there is always someone to chat with to solve issues. For Catherine, diving into the world of social media and overcoming reservations around being a private person were HUGE, so we chose to start by inviting friends and relatives to follow us and any new followers are finding us on their own. Lucy has since linked Friends4Trees4Life to her JustLucyJewelry Facebook page. There is no denying we are proud we put this together independently!

Catherine started off as the writer of the blog, and Lucy worked more on the  technical side, adding photos, and making the blog look good. Then we got into sharing blogs, and writing different sections. As you can imagine, that just made our posts longer. Sometimes life gets busy all at once, and it can be hard to write each and every week. So lately we have evolved into a system of alternating weeks, and choosing our own topics to write about. We are always sharing ideas and newsy topics with each other, so we text all the time. Bonus!!!

Recently we were wondering if we might run out of topics, but just as we said that, the world started to take more action on climate change, and the topics started finding us. We have a list of ideas, but our writing is more organic, choosing topics for which we feel passionate about and always keeping a positive and hopeful mindset, even while tackling some very serious topics. We try to emphasize research over personal opinion, although this is not meant to be an academic project, and we do have our own views on issues, to be sure. We certainly enjoy having fun and the lighter side of exploring topics too!

Catherine learned to create Bitlys so our sources are not so cumbersome, and we worked through issues of properly crediting sources, and crediting photos, and knowing where to add tags. We did learn the hard way that if you write the blog in the blog site, you are at great danger of losing it, so best to write it and then copy and upload it. Also, photos have to be entered separately for best results. The Blog looks best on devices with larger screens (e.g., iPads and laptops), although still works for viewing on smartphones, with more limited functionality. The site administrator functions let us control which comments we post, to avoid spammers. Happily, we can report that we have had very few spam comments. These details may be too much and a bit boring, but the bottom line is, in case you are thinking of blogging, if we can do it, you can do it!

We read that the best way to get followers is to blog consistently, so at the outset we chose to post every Thursday. This “writing to deadline” each week has had an unanticipated grounding sense of purpose and pride of accomplishment for us.  It has been especially beneficial during the COVID pandemic lockdown(s) for countering feelings of being un-moored, or bored. And 52 blogs later, we have a year under our belt!!!!

Learning, By The Numbers

As we reflect on the past year, some astonishing tree and environment numbers that we have learned include:

  • I tree = 40lbs. of carbon absorbed per year
  • 1.5C = Global Ceiling for Overall Temperature Rise to Avoid Climate Change Catastrophe
  • 5 = Even 5 minutes around trees may improve health
  • 33% = Carbon Emissions Via Food Wastes that Consumers Can Alter
  • 40% = City of Toronto’s Plan for Tree Canopy Coverage
  • 30 countries = Countries to-date Committing to be Carbon Net Neutral (including Canada and China)
  • 45% = Extent of Global Carbon Emissions Now the Focus by the above 30 countries
  • 50 Years Young = Earth Day Anniversary Held on April 22, 2020
  • 60= Electric Vehicle Fleet Size for the Toronto Transit Commission in 2020
  • 67% = Carbon Emissions via Food Waste that Food Production Can Alter
  • 100% = TTC’s Target for Electric Vehicles by 2040
  • $1700 = Average Annual Savings Potential for Canadian Households via Food Waste Reduction
  • 1000 to 4000 years old = age of oldest living trees in Canada’s Rain Forest
  • 2 million trees = Highway of Heroes tree tribute target (one for every Canadian fallen soldier)
  • 1.7 billion trees = Trees planted by Ethiopa since 2006 
  • 2 billion trees = Canada’s target to plant by 2030
  • 2.8  billion trees = Trees planted to-date by top tree planting nation, China
  • 7.8 billion trees = Earth Day 2020 tree planting target (one tree for each human alive)
  • 3 trillion trees = total number of trees on Earth
  • 1 trillion trees = Earth’s capacity for more trees
  • One Trillion Trees = Global Tree Planting Campaign, started in 2006
  • Zero = Zero-emissions Target for Project Arrow’s Concept Car, entirely desigend and made in Canada
  • All = We All Make a Difference on Climate Action, Each and Every Individual
  • Every = Every Action Counts, Small and Big

Wonder and AweWhy Trees Matter

Through learning and writing for Friends4Trees4Life, we are opening our eyes, minds and hearts in newfound respect and reverance for the healing power, magnificence and generosity of Nature, especially Trees.

We are learning that even five minutes around trees may improve health. Research shows the benefits for our immune systems of essential oils called phytoncides that  trees emit while doing their ‘tree thing’ and to protect themselves from harmful species.

Since the 1980s, Japanese government programs and the Japanese cultural practice of shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) have recognized the health benefits of simply being in the presence of trees, letting go of worries and distractions in the quietude of nature, taking time to relax and calm the nervous system. The benefits are available to us wherever we are, whether among trees in urban or rural settings alike.

Humans breathe and need the life-giving oxygen that trees produce through the process of photosynthesis, for our very survival.

Trees offer nourishment through the fruit and nuts they produce. Two-thirds of agricultural crops produced for human consumption depend on pollination by pollinators such as bees and butterflies while gathering nectar from tree, shrub and flower blossoms.

Below ground, networks of tree roots enrich the soil ecosystem, provide flood protection, and cycle nutrients from and back into rivers and streams, thereby feeding acquatic ecosystems too.

Biodiversity in forest trees acts as a fire retardant as slow burning trees such as aspen help to slow and sometimes contain the spread of wild fires.

Trees play a significant role in the complex array of solutions and behaviour shifts that are required by humans to reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution to combat global warming and climate change.

In fact, the research that launched us into our blogging adventure makes the compelling case that planting trees is currently the fastest and most cost effective way to sequester carbon, and one of the most impactful actions any individual, organization and government can do to combat climate change.

This tree fact has inspired individual concerned citizens, entrepreneurs and governments alike to act.

We admire and are in awe of, the singular pursuit of Jadev Payeng, who since 1979 has single-handedly planted one tree sapling at a time over a span of many years, resulting in a new forest grove larger than Central Park that now serves as flood protection for his community on Majuli Island, India. His inspiring story is captured on this award-winning 7-minute YouTube video, called Forest Man.

We admire and are proud of the ingenuity of Canadian entrepreneurs Flash Forest They too found the case of tree planting to combat climate change to be compelling. How to make labour-intensive tree planting faster, less arduous and more cost-effective? This kickstarter video clip shows their new tree-planting drone technology hard at work.

We, too, find the research evidence compelling and inspiring. In particular, we find cause for optimism in the research computations by Swiss scientist Thomas Crowthers and his colleagues, which answered the research questions, How many trees are there on Planet Earth? How many more trees could be planted on available land?

And, importantly, the study computed what would be the impact for global warming and climate change of planting trees on such a scale? In a nutshell, trees matter significantly. Humankind cannot realize the goal of holding global warming to a 1.5C temperature rise without trees.

Crowthers and his colleagues mapped tree density at a global scale for the first time, in their ground-breaking 2019 study. It calculated that the total number of trees on Earth is three trillion, with capacity for one trillion more trees to be planted on available land.

Tree planting alone won’t solve the climate crisis; dramatic changes in human behaviour to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions are key. Tree-planting will make a HUGE difference, however. The findings of Crowthers and his colleagues helps to quantify the potential positive impact that trees may have when part of a climate action plan. As a CBC article notes, “The study calculated that over the decades, those new trees could suck up nearly 750 billion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere–about as much carbon pollution as humans have spewed in the past 25 years.” We find this compelling, awe-inspiring and cause for hope. And tree-planting action!

We also find inspiration in the more “garden-variety”, hands-on (literally) encounters with Nature, in our own backyards. To our surprise and delight, we both became avid, first time vegetable gardeners this spring and summer. We were supported and encouraged in our fledgling efforts by our more experienced friends and family members. Several extended this generosity of spirit to include taking the time and effort to be guest bloggers, sharing their knowledge, experience, passions, tips, and, harvest photos, online with Friends4Trees4Life. It has been energizing, fun and such an unexpected pleasure to belong to this wider community of hobby gardeners. Thank you!

Special shout out in appreciation to Catherine’s ‘squash on steroids,’ which brought such delight, amazement and joy all season, as it exuberantly grew and grew to inhabit the yard, and gave and gave non-stop of its bountiful produce, even sprouting more new blossoms optimistically right through to October harvest time. We admire and are uplifted by its spunk, generosity and will to thrive. A welcome distraction and good inspiration for these strange times.

Inspiration also came from learning about carbon calculators that can help each of us understand our own personal carbon footprint. After using the calculator, we were able to find ways to decrease our footprint. In our new year’s blogs we shared how we were able to set new goals for ourselves like using a clothes rack to dry clothes, or turning down the thermostat to 19 degrees, or buying more local food, or driving less, or starting a compost, or buying and planting trees to offset the carbon from flights. We look forward to reviewing our goals again in the new year.

Thanks to our Reader Terry for bringing the work and writing of Diana Beresford-Kroeger to our attention for our Blog. We are the richer for now learning about, and finding inspiration from, the unique life and life’s work of this Canadian treasure and world-recognized author, medical chemist and botanist.

The Blogs that Resonated Most with Our Readers and Ourselves

We did notice we got more feedback on certain blogs, so we feel they must have resonated with our Readers. Here they are: Tree Joys and Benefits, The Delicate Ecosystem of Jasper National Park, Vegetable Gardening 101 and Garden Therapy and Suggestions for Yard Trees.

If you would like to go back and read any of these blogs, go onto our site, and in the side bar look for “Quick Links”. Please continue to comment and offer suggestions on our blogs so we know what interests you. 

As well we were each passionate in our writing on certain topics. 

Lucy especially loved writing about:

  • New Year’s Resolutions and Carbon Calculators,
  • A Greener Canada,
  • The Wonders of the Amazon Rain Forest, and
  • The Delicate Ecosystem of Jasper National Par

Catherine especially loved writing about:

  • Innovations – Canadian Made,
  • Tree Joys and Benefits,
  • Food Waste and Climate Change,
  • Holiday Blog, and
  • Momentum is Building for Climate Action

Thank Yous And Gratitude

In a year like no other, we are incredibly grateful to each other to have shared in this learning journey and creative exploration together. We could not have anticipated how uplifting, joyful, rewarding and FUN it would be to nurture “baby blog” together, buoying our spirits in these challenging pandemic times with positive energy, the joy of learning, creating (52 blog posts!) and doing (tree planting) and discovering and sharing ever more reasons for optimism about human ingenuity, the healing power of Nature, and evidence of momentum finally building for climate action to assure the future of our beautiful home, Planet Earth, for generations to come.

We are both amazed to have become bloggers. Neither of us would be doing this if not for the other, and this experience is all the richer and better for being a shared enterprise. It is fun to make messes, solve problems and be serious and playful together, and our lifetime friendship is only deepening with every new laugh wrinkle we add while blogging “together,” from afar. We are both SO glad that our original idea to run one tree-planting event evolved into a year-long blogging adventure instead.

We are grateful for and humbled by the continued interest, engagement, and feedback we receive from you, our Readers. Many have provided topic and book suggestions, articles of interest, and requests that have helped shape our blog’s focus and design (e.g., Resource section with Qs and As, Carbon Calculators, and Quick Links to Old Posts). We hope each of you sees your contribution reflected in our posts.

As we write this section, we are starting to get a taste of what Acceptance speeches at Awards shows must feel like….Indeed, we feel grateful to our spouses for their encouragement and support, especially on those deadline days when “blogging rules!”.

It has been our great pleasure to share this space with so many wonderful people we feel so privileged to have in our lives as friends and family, and now in the role of guest bloggers.

Guest Bloggers

Thank you, thank you to all our guest bloggers. Each and every one of you inspires us. We appreciate your many talents and passions, and your generosity of spirit in making the time to share your knowledge, experience, tips and photos with us and our Readers. We learned so much! You also gave us a week’s  break and welcome “mini holiday” from writing! Three cheers of gratitude to our guest bloggers, in chronological order:

  • Tree Planting in Victoria B.C.-Wanda 
  • Tu BiShevat Festival -Eileen 
  • Solar Panels- Randy
  • Ready for Earth Day- Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Brady
  • Community Gardening -Shanthi and Audrey
  • Being a Bee Keeper- Brian
  • Gardening Therapy, Community and Climate Change and Vegetable Gardening-  Shanthi, Audrey, Leslie and Ross
  • Growing Cut Flowers- Shanthi
  • I Shall Never See a Poem as Lovely as a Tree- Liane
  • Movie Night: A Life on this Planet – Allan

Guest Artists and Photographers

Thank you to all the youth who created stunning original art for our Earth Day Blog -Elizabeth, Brady, Emily, Hannah, Karis, Claire, Connor, Charlie.

Thank you to our amazing photographers: Jim, MaryAnn, Shanthi, Wanda, Audrey, Alex, Janet, Andrew, Randy, and Brian. You all inspire Lucy to be a better photographer. Lucy has enjoyed taking photos of trees everywhere she goes, and other than having periodic storage issues on her computer, she loves the 20,000 photos she keeps categorized and edited on her computer and is thrilled to share them in this blog. 

A Look Ahead into Our Second Year

Well we are thrilled to be continuing Friends4Trees4Life, or “baby blog”, as we often call it affectionately, but we may need a new nickname. We are thinking we will post every second Thursday instead of every Thursday, this year, but we may throw more posts in, if we feel the urge. We will try to be more concise, and we continue to value your feedback to guide our writing. Of course we always welcome guest bloggers, whether you write only a section of the blog or the whole thing.

There are some goals we had in the first year that got stymied because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had wanted to focus more on young people’s voices and empowerment. Lucy had hoped to join in with Edmonton Root for Trees and actually go out to plant trees but that was not available. We hope this will be something that will happen in 2021.  We had hoped to create a friendly competition around Earth Day 2020 that would encourage people to plant trees. Do any of you have any suggestions in this regard for Earth Day 2021? We could not figure out how to track this within the Blog. 

We always have more topics lined up like: profiles of favourite trees, cities and climate action; book profiles such as “Solved,” by David Miller and his related interview on TVO’s The Agenda, progress with the Paris Accord, lessons to be learned from other jurisdictions, clarity with the Canadian Government’s green recovery plan, innovations, and guest videographers Shanthi and Iniyan’s Moon Garden video.

We will keep revisiting favourite topics like:  vegetable gardening, choosing yard trees and health benefits of trees.

We have received a  Reader’s request for more information on forest management practices

Most importantly, we will continue to encourage each other to take more steps towards decreasing our carbon footprint and rewilding our planet . 

Last Words Go to the Trees

We are often asked, which trees are best to plant?

Short answer is, any young tree that is native to the locale.

Pressed to name names, here is the list of trees that the entrepreneurs behind the Canadian tree-planting drone innovation have given priority to, based on their research:

  • White Spruce
  • White Pine
  • Blue Spruce
  • Red Maple
  • White Birch
  • Sugar Maple
  • Douglas Fir
  • Balsam Fir.

Think Like A Tree

We find the poem, Think Like A Tree, by Karen I. Shragg, to be uplifting and wise in its message.

We did not have enough lead time to seek copyright permission to present the poem in this Blog.

However, the website SpiritofTrees does have the author’s permission, and Readers may find the full poem here:

Interestingly, and relevant to our Friends4Trees4Life Blog, “Spirit of Trees, [is] a resource for therapists, educators, environmentalists, storytellers and tree lovers! You will find here an abundance of resources, in particular a varied collection of multicultural folktales and myths.”

“This website was originally conceived of as an educational resource for the DC Memorial Tree Groves Project, a Washington, DC-based national memorial to the victims of 9/11. But the project has grown beyond its original intention and is now offered as an independent resource for a world-wide community of tree-lovers of all ages.”

Inspirational Quotes about Trees

OneTreePlanted’s website includes a set of inspirational quotes about trees. We end this anniversary Blog post by sharing a few that resonated with us in particular.

Thank you for your support and for being engaged with our Friends4Trees4Life Blog this past year. We LOVE hearing from our Readers, and welcome your feedback. If the spirit should move you, we are always delighted to share this space with our guest bloggers.

It is very meaningful to us when we learn from our Readers that something they read in the Blog made them think or has been useful in their lives. This inspires us to keep on learning, growing and sharing what we are learning…we’ve renewed our contract for the Blog platform for 2021, so stay tuned please! We hope you will return often to read our Blog and to keep connected with us.

“Trees do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

― Herman Hesse

“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.”

― Paulo Coelho

“Trees are as close to immortality as the rest of us ever come.”

― Karen Joy Fowler 

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

― Nelson Henderson

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let’s give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.”

― Bob Ross

“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff.”

― Carl Sagan

Movie Night….

We are pleased to welcome Allan Terplawy, this week’s guest blogger and thank him for his thorough review of a documentary called A Life On Our Planet. Following this Lucy will review There’s Something in the Water. Both of these documentaries can currently be found on Netflix. Lucy will also link you to One Tree Planted summary of The State of California.


David Attenborough is 93 years old. We all should hope to be as articulate, wise, and fit when reach that age. If this is his final message, it is one to which all of us should listen.

You have likely heard David Attenborough’s voice on many nature-related documentaries such as Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, etc., but his contribution to the subject of nature and its preservation goes far beyond narration. In this documentary, he takes us through his life experiences and simultaneously shows how the earth has “progressed” in terms of population, carbon in the atmosphere, and the %’age of wilderness remaining over the years. The story is both interesting and alarming. The planet is losing its bio-diversity. As he puts it, “As (man’s) understanding of how the living world works., our behaviour becomes more and more damaging”. Ironically, this is driven by our intelligence as a species.

The documentary highlights and compares some key statistics through his life:

  • World population
  • % Carbon in the atmosphere
  • % of wilderness remaining

When Sir David was a teenager, around 1937, the planet had 2.3 billion people, 66% of the planet was in wilderness there was 280 ppm carbon in the atmosphere. Now in 2020 Sir David is 93 and there are 7.8 billion people, 35% of the planet is in wilderness, and there is 415 ppm carbon in the atmosphere. It is effective how Sir David updates these facts as he goes along in the documentary.

Sir David also highlights other facts such as the amount of deforestation and the increase and effects of large scale commercial fishing. As we would expect, the cinematography is unparalleled.What I found encouraging is that the documentary is not just all doom and gloom. Yes, the planet is at a tipping point, but there are actions we can take to correct its course, and indeed many places (Morocco, Holland, Japan, and Costa Rica to name a few) are making progress and have shown that corrections can be made and our standard of living can still improve. The Netherlands has taken commercial greenhouses to the next level, actually exporting vegetables to the rest of Europe (no small feat considering its land area). Morocco boasts huge solar energy generation, exporting it to Europe. Japan has both controlled its population growth and improved its standard of living. And Costa Rica is an example of how we can reverse the effects of excessive deforestation.The ocean is a vast food source for humans but, if left unchecked, large scale commercial fishing can, and has, unbalanced the equilibrium. Over-fishing large predators (tuna is included in this category – large, ugly and tasty all at the same time) causes the oceanic nutrient cycle to stutter. Predators help to keep oceanic nutrients in the waters, recycling them, so that they can be used again and again by plankton. Without predators, the nutrients are lost and the ocean starts to die.

Another interesting fact is that the ocean is a huge heat sink for the earth. As our polar ice caps slowly deteriorate, the amount of snow cover is reduced, hence reducing the earth’s ability to reflect that heat back into space. The oceans, however, are able to absorb much of this heat but even they are experiencing distress. The ocean temperature is rising (1 centigrade degree on average during Sir David’s lifetime) and this is causing coral reefs to die.

The documentary stresses that forests are the best technology for locking away carbon. But you already know that. We don’t deforest without reason – we benefit from the tress and materials we harvest and subsequently use the land for farming. But better use of the land will allow us to reduce or halt deforestation and “re-wild” the earth.

Costa Rica Photo credit Lucy

The tone of the documentary, I thought, was not one of admonishing the human race for doing bad things – we as humans did what we thought we had to, to supply the population with its seemingly insatiable demand. Our use of the land, however, was not optimal. So let’s change our focus – grow more vegetables, thus not over-stressing the land. What struck me, though is that he did not say “STOP EATING MEAT”, or “SHUT DOWN THE DAIRY AND CATTLE FARMS”. Certainly, we need to move in the direction of eating significantly less meat and limiting our dairy consumption – this type of farming is a very inefficient use of land and can be inhumane in its treatment of animals. We need to reduce our consumption. But these are conclusions that Sir David leads you to arrive at through an eloquently narrated and brilliantly photographed documentary.

Sir David summarizes: “This is my witness statement. A story of global decline during a single lifetime.” But he goes on to say that “Nature is our biggest ally and our greatest inspiration.” We are urged to embrace it, support it, and care for it. Plant a tree and enjoy the benefits.

Thank you Allan for such a great review. We agree with everything you have said. This film is a visual representation of what we attempt to do with our blog. We consciously try to offer information about how Mother Earth is doing, under the strain of 7.7 billion people, while maintaining a positive, encouraging and hopeful attitude about the future, since we all want our subsequent generations of family to enjoy the earth’s beauty and live fulfilling lives. We are aware through all the scientific information we receive, and thru the wisdom on Sir David Attenborough, that we need to make conscious decisions today to ensure this will happen.

A Review of Ellen Page’s “There is Something in the Water” by Lucy MacQuarrie

Another movie to watch on Netflix is There Is Something in the Water. “Based on Ingrid Waldron’s incendiary study, the film follows actress and activist Ellen Page as she travels to rural areas of Nova Scotia that are plagued by toxic fallout from industrial development. As did Waldron, the filmmakers discover that these catastrophes have been precisely placed, all in remote, low income — and very often Indigenous or Black — communities. As the filmmakers observe, your postal code determines your health.”

“As a result of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, long overdue conversations about environmental racism and the intersection of racism and environmental justice are actively taking place throughout Canada. ” according to the Suzuki Foundation.

Lucy and Allan both found this documentary engaging, as the 3 rural areas of Nova Scotia plagued by toxic fallout are very clear, and the spokeswomen are all passionate, articulate and deeply committed to creating a change. And there is a happy ending!

A Review of One Tree Planted series “The State of California” by Lucy MacQuarrie

One Tree Planted has created a 6 part series called “The State of California”. Each episode is only about 5-7 minutes long. I watched a few of them and they surprisingly carry an optimistic outlook for the future of California’s forests. These are far less engaging and professional than the other documentaries mentioned above, but you may be interested in the topic.

  1. One Tree Planted
  2. How Did We Get Here?
  3. On the Line
  4. Fighting Fire With Fire
  5. The Need for Seed
  6. Where Do We Go From Here?
stock photo

According to One Tree Planted, “California is one of 35 biodiversity hotspots around the world. Its wide range of endemic species and varied climate make it a unique place. In this series we try to understand what makes California so special. We look into the many challenges facing the forest, population, and environment, and the solutions being employed to help the state avoid and recover from catastrophic wildfires.” 

“Throughout this series we meet the people dedicated to ensuring California’s forests are healthy and safe. From policymakers to academics, to the tree planters and firefighters, these people are on the frontlines of the collective effort to restore California’s landscape and instill hope for future generations.”

This series can be accessed thru One Tree Planted and also thru their Youtube Channel.

My photo from the Juan de Fuca Trail has been photo-shopped to create a horizontal and vertical mirror image. This idea is stolen from a photo seen at the Jasper Park Lodge. Thanks to my sister MaryAnn for walking me patiently thru the steps in photoshop. Photo credit Lucy

Much Climate Change News

photo credit Lucy

There is much to share from the past week’s news articles on climate action.

Some topics point the way forward, such as hydrogen cars, Canada’s announcement banning certain plastics, socially responsible investing, and new net zero housing pilot projects. Others, call for more attention and concerted efforts to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions – nitrous oxide this time.

Of course, we will close by giving the last word to “the trees”.

Momentum is Building

We thought we would start by building on our cautiously optimistic post from two weeks ago. Here is the link to a BBC article which offers a similar appraisal on the significance of China’s new resolve to become carbon net-zero by 2060, titled, “Is the world starting to take climate change seriously now?”

Canada Announces Ban on Certain Single-Use Plastics

Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement last week banning certain single-use plastics in Canada is a ‘good place to start, but the easy part,’ says this Globe and Mail editorial. In it, we learned that the decision acts on the recommendations of a report called, “Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste,” which was agreed to by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Specifically, a recommendation in it that Canada find a solution by the end of 2021 for “single use items that are most likely to be released into the environment.”

Among the list of single use plastics to be banned in Canada are: plastic stir sticks, straws, checkout bags, cutlery, plastic rings on beer six-packs, and certain hard to recycle plastic takeout food containers.

This list of single use items fit the bill acording to the editorial, given their ubiquity as pollutants that have many viable alternatives and the fact that they don’t get recycled much thus ending up in landfill.

One challenge ahead identified for the near-term relates to the timing of the announcement on the heels of Alberta’s just announced economic plans to become a “plastics recycling hub for North America”.

The long-term heavy lifting remains in setting the price for production of necessary plastic products in a way that reflects the true, full costs associated with recycling them.

“Plastics are an essential part of modern life. They have uses from food protection to medicine to automaking. We need plastics, but we also need the responsible manufacture and disposal of plastics, so that their price represents their true cost. In the long run, that will benefit the economy, the environment and the petrochemical and plastics industries, as the Alberta government justifiably hopes.”

Globe and Mail editorial:

Canada wide action plan on zero plastics waste report:

This BBC article adds insights on Canada’s announcement within an international context, noting that Canada recycles just 10% of our plastics, and that similar legisltation was passed by the European Union last year. Promisingly, it also reports that in May, 180 countries agreed to a UN goal to reduce harmful ocean plastics worldwide.

Hydrogen Powered Cars

photo credit Lucy

We were excited to share the news last week about federal and provincial funding investments to support Ford auto’s commitment to produce electric vehicles at its Oakville Ontario plant as of 2025.

Learn more about the next wave of e-vehicles – hydrogen-powered cars –  in this CBC article and videoclip:

Apparently, in Burnaby BC at least, the emissions-free, hydrogen powered Toyota Mirai is already on the market, supported by the availabilty of three charging systems so far. The future we aspire to is emerging!

New Net-Zero Housing

Carbon-zero countries. Emissions-free hydrogen-powered cars. What else does the future hold to take us toward a more sustainable world?

We learned about Canada’s new net-zero energy housing standards at the Natural Resources website and its news release about pilot project investments:

photo credit MaryAnn

“The funding will support a project led by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) that will enable seven housing builders to construct net-zero energy and net-zero energy ready residential buildings in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.”

“Buildings and homes contribute approximately 17 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Net-zero energy buildings are designed and constructed to produce at least as much energy as they consume on an annual basis.”

“R-2000 is an established national standard with the training, certification, house-testing, inspections and overall quality assurance that are the essential basis to ensuring the integrity of net zero energy housing.”

This Eco-Home site presents images of the net-zero pilot homes, and pilot project results. It identifies the participating home building companies as “Under the pilot program, 23 individual Net Zero Energy Houses were built by six different builders (two from the RFP and four under the ecoEII project): Construction Voyer, Habitat Studio & Workshop Ltd., Mattamy Homes, Minto Communities Canada, Reid’s Heritage Homes, and Sloot Construction Ltd.”

This Construction Executive site describes related, complimentary Green Building trends in the construction industry, including the third-party LEED certification program.

“The trend toward sustainable construction is changing the way projects are designed and built. The demand for green buildings continues to rise driven by increasing concerns over global warming, tighter environmental regulations and a growing focus on occupant health. In response to this demand, the construction sector is embracing green practices including delivering LEED-certified commercial projects.”

photo credit Lucy

Greenhouse Gas Challenge – Nitrous Oxide

While trends in reducing, eliminating or neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions for house building and cars look promising, this CBC article explains why challenges remain in agricultural production.

It profiles a new study published in the journal Nature which suggests that “nitrous oxide — a gas that is 300 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide — is steadily increasing in the atmosphere.”

“While nitrous oxide is produced in different ways, the study found  the largest contributor is agriculture, where it is produced as a by-product of nitrogen, largely used in agriculture as a fertilizer.”

Add nitrous oxide to methane and carbon in our growing awareness about harmful greenhouse gases.

As the TVOntario tag line says – Always Learning!

To read the full CBC article:

To access a Complimentary share file on the report itself:

Socially Responsible Investments

The World Economic Forum recently released 22 “ESG” metrics to help guide investment decisions that promote a green recovery from the pandemic.

“New York, USA, 22 September 2020 – The World Economic Forum today released a set of universal environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics and disclosures to measure stakeholder capitalism that companies can report on regardless of their industry or region. Organized around the pillars of principles of governance, planet, people and prosperity, the identified metrics and disclosures align existing standards, enabling companies to collectively report non-financial disclosures.”

“The report, “Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism: Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation”, comes at a pivotal moment. The social unrest, economic inequalities and racial injustice exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated demand from business, governments, standards bodies and NGOs for a comprehensive, globally accepted corporate reporting system.”

photo credit Lucy

“ ‘This is a unique moment in history to walk the talk and to make stakeholder capitalism measurable,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “Having companies accepting, not only to measure but also to report on, their environmental and social responsibility will represent a sea change in economic history.’ ”

“…Companies see the importance of social, climate and other non-financial factors as critical for their long-term viability and success. Some 86% of executives surveyed by the Forum agreed that reporting on a set of universal ESG disclosures is important and would be useful for financial markets and the economy.”

Canada’s former Bank of Canada head, Mark Carney, is now the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance. In the artcle, he is quoted on the World Economic Forum’s ESG work, “Through this work you are demonstrating to shareholders, stakeholders and society at large that the private sector is committed to measuring and improving its impacts on the environment as part of the transition to a low carbon future. I encourage governments, regulators, the official accounting community and voluntary standard setters to work with the IBC towards creating a globally accepted system of sustainability reporting based on this project’s groundbreaking work.”

To learn more about “ethical” and “socially responsible” investments and the call for improved transparency in corporate reporting, we offer our Readers a few more articles as a place to start:, and,

Protectors of the Planet

We appreciate opportunities to learn about and celebrate our own local heroes.

Jamie Bastedo is a Yellowknife author, and is profiled in this CBC article, on the release of his new book, “Protectors of the Planet: Environmental Trailblazers from 7 to 97”.

” ‘It’s a book about real-life stories about a dozen daring eco-heroes from across Canada doing extraordinary things to protect our troubled planet,’ Bastedo said.”

photo credit Lucy

Last Word Goes to the Trees

We were fascinated to learn from the BBC about ‘the tree that changed the world map,” and how it became the national tree of Peru and Ecuador. Catherine owes a special debt of gratitude to the now endangered “cinchona officianalis” tree, since its bark is the source of the world’s first anti-malarial drug, quinine, which did indeed save her father, twice, when he fell ill to malaria during WWII with the British army.

For Readers with the itch to go on a road trip to a unique “tree-focused” travel destination, this CBC article about a new Yukon hotel  may be of interest:

In addition to enjoying the photos of magnificent fall foliage, Readers may learn more about what fall colours can teach us about trees:

photo credit MaryAnn

The Delicate Ecosystem of Jasper National Park

Patricia Lake

Lucy had a wonderful holiday recently in Jasper National Park. It was so invigorating, all the beauty, and autumn colors seen from the car and on hikes. So we decided to dedicate a blog to the ecosystem of Jasper National Park. We recall as young students in elementary school, many years ago, that teachers talked about not interfering with ecosystems, because you can never get it back to it’s natural state. That is a foreign concept in our world today when we often interfere with natural ecosystems. It helps that JNP is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it is protected. (All the photos in this article have been taken by Lucy)

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “Jasper National Park is a protected area located in the Rocky Mountains, about 370 km west of Edmonton, Alberta. Established in 1907, it was the fifth national park created in Canada. It’s also one of seven parks in the Rocky Mountains that make up the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site (the others are Yoho, Banff and Kootenay national parks, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks). Among the reasons for the UNESCO designation are the parks’ mountain landscapes, complete with waterfalls, canyons and glaciers, including those found in the Columbia Icefield.”

Maligne Canyon

Ecosystems of Jasper National Park

“Climate, geology, soil, plants, animals – and humans all interact in one large complex web of life. In Jasper this web is especially fragile. Here existence depends on the intricate relationships between flora and fauna, weather and landscape. These relationships, called ecosystems, can be upset by the smallest of changes, affecting even the largest of animals, including Jasper’s monarch, the grizzly.

Jasper National Park is located on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of west-central Alberta, east of the continental divide. This location strongly influences its climate, geology, plants and animals, and also has affected its human history. The mountain landscape has been formed by a variety of geological events over millions of years. This has resulted in a rugged topography with a large range in altitude from about 985 metres in the Athabasca Valley to nearly 3800 metres at the top of Mt. Columbia.

These altitudinal differences influence the climate, with higher altitudes being colder and generally wetter, while lower altitudes are warmer and drier. As well, Jasper National Park’s location east of the continental divide also affects the climate. The eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains are drier than the western slopes in adjacent British Columbia due to a rain shadow effect. This occurs when storms moving eastward from the Pacific Ocean drop much of their moisture on the western slopes as the clouds are forced higher by the mountains. The eastern slopes are also more frequently subjected to Arctic air plunging southward, especially in the winter. As a result of these two influences, Jasper is generally colder and drier than areas to the west.

Ecologically, plants and animals are not independent of their environment or of each other. All of these components – climate, geology, soil, plants, animals, and so on – influence one another in a complex web of components and interactions called an ecosystem. In the sections that follow, each of these ecosystem components will be described in greater detail.”

Bridge to Island on Pyramid Lake

Life Zones

“Jasper National Park is divided into three life zones – montane, subalpine, alpine – which are broad landscape units with characteristic species, communities and physical environments. Climatic differences associated with changes in altitude are the main determinants of these differences in biodiversity. Higher elevations are generally colder and wetter, while lower elevations are warmer and drier. Local differences in slope angle and direction can create local microclimates. Steeper slopes are generally better drained and drier than moderately sloping or flat areas. South-facing slopes are drier and warmer than north-facing ones at the same altitude.

The ranges of plants and animals across this altitudinal range are related largely to their tolerances to cold, heat and drought. Other factors that influence distributions include food species, competition with other species, and soil conditions. The wettest areas are occupied by lakes, ponds, marshes and fens. Grasslands occur in the warmest, driest portions of the park and forests in moderate environments. Trees can’t grow in the cold conditions of high altitudes above about 2200 metres and so forests are absent, replaced by low shrub and wildflower communities.”


“The montane life zone is warm, dry and found only on the very bottoms of the Athabasca and Miette Valleys in Jasper. Here Douglas Fir stands hug south facing slopes, the furthest north in Alberta this species grows. Warm chinook winds sweep through the valleys in winter, melting snow and making forage in the extensive grasslands easy for elk, moose, deer and sheep. Bears, waking in spring, roam in and out of the montane, feasting on the red-and-orange buffalo berries for weeks at a time in the fall. Wolves and cougars move through the valleys in search of food while bald eagles and osprey nest near the rivers, close to the pike and mountain white fish they feed their young.

The montane is also where humans live. The community of Jasper, the Canadian National Railway, the Jasper Park Lodge, the Yellowhead Highway, 2 large campgrounds, a power station, pipeline, garbage transfer station, sewage waste plant, and a number of chalets and lodges all dot the montane landscape. Almost 2 million people stop to visit the montane every year, while another 1 million drive through it on the Yellowhead Highway.

Wildlife, like humans, use the valley bottoms as transportation corridors and rely on the montane for food and shelter. There is concern that human use in the valleys is adversely impacting wildlife corridors, fragmenting the ecosystem and giving animals less and less room to live. Parks Canada is actively studying these wildlife corridors using cameras with infrared triggers to better understand where wildlife roams in Jasper and how human use, especially the creation and use of unofficial trails, is affecting them.

Parks Canada is committed to maintaining a high quality trail system in Jasper for everyone’s enjoyment. The use and creation of unofficial trails is however displacing wildlife from their natural habitat. They recommend to only use officially designated trails while hiking, horse-back riding, mountain biking or cross country skiing in Jasper’s montane.”


The subalpine is a great sweeping forest that curls around mountainsides, fringed at treeline by grotesquely stunted trees called krumholtz. Dark and wet, the mostly spruce mixed with pine and sub-alpine fir forest that stretches up from the montane is habitat for a limited number of animals. Pine martins, large cat-like weasels, and their larger cousin the wolverine roam the subalpine. In the winter, lynx, moose and caribou frequent the life zone, using their large paws and hooves to maneuver through the deep snow. Clark’s nutcrackers, the boreal chickadee, winter wren, golden-crowned kinglet, varied thrush, yellow-rumped warbler and the dark-eyed junco also call the subalpine home.

In the past, great forest fires have been known to engulf nearly all of Jasper’s subalpine forests in a season or two. The last such fire was 1888-89 when almost 40% of the park’s forests burned over the course of two summers. For years Parks Canada has prevented forest fires from starting in Jasper. New research and a greater understanding of forest fire ecology has however changed attitudes and management styles. Seen as a process of rejuvenation rather than of destruction, forest fires are now carefully managed in some parts of the park. These ‘prescribed burns’ return nutrients to the soil, helping to ensure a healthy ecosystem of diverse plant and animal species in Jasper.

They recommend you be careful with your camp fire – While fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, a poorly extinguished camp fire can quickly turn into a forest fire that puts lives and property at risk. Ensure your fire is completely out before leaving it.”


“Characterized by howling winds that scour the rocky earth, the alpine is the most intricate of Jasper’s three life zones. Flowers that survive in the alpine do so using subtle techniques. Large, cup-shaped pedals act like mirrors, focusing sunlight on the centre of the flower, where pollen is produced. This creates a warm, mini-environment, attracting small insects that spread the pollen to other plants, procreating the species. Reddish pigments in flowers also help convert light into heat and act as a kind of antifreeze for the plants.

Whistling marmots and pikas are the most often seen inhabitants of the alpine. These small mammals live in dens under the rocks making high-pitched whistles or squeaks when danger appears. The hardy ptarmigan is the only bird to frequent the alpine year-round. Turning white in the winter, it is perfectly camouflaged and burrows deep into snowdrifts to survive the cold temperatures.

The alpine life zone is the most fragile life zone in Jasper. While difficult to reach, some alpine areas in the park are relatively accessible. The Whistlers tramway and certain trails, especially in the Columbia Icefield and Maligne Lake areas, allow visitors to discover the alpine with only a minimal amount of effort. Wild plants and flowers will not reproduce if trampled or picked, and even something as simple as moving a stone can decrease a plant’s chance of survival.”

Siteseeing and Dining

View from Becker Cabin Gourmet Restaurant Just Before the Elk Bull Appeared

Jasper National Park is such a stunningly beautiful place to visit any time of year. The many bungalows are open until Thanksgiving. We did notice some shops and restaurants such as at Maligne Lake, or the Italian restaurant at the JPL are only open weekends in late September. Not sure how COVID has affected what is available. Using AllTrails App on our phone, we were able to access information on over 100 hikes, from very short and easy to very challenging. We kept to simpler hikes and went to Edge of the World, Valley of the 5 Lakes, Flower Loop, Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls, Mary Schafer Loop, Wapiti Trail, and Lac Beauvert. There are many excellent restaurants. We enjoyed the Becker’s Cabin Gourmet Restaurant (where I had the Wild Mushroom Lasagne with Spinach Pesto), the Raven, Evil Dave’s and JPL Great Hall Gastropub. There is a lot of history to learn about as well as many tourist sites like several waterfalls, the Miette Hot Springs, and horse back riding and the Columbian Icefield. I cannot wait to go back to hike some more trails, and look again into the aqua pristine water while breathing in the clean mountain air.

The Pine Beetle

It is immediately obvious that there are many red or dry grey trees in Jasper, and one might wonder if that is the natural cycle of the forest. Unfortunately it is the more than a decade long infestation of the pine beetle that is killing the pine and fir trees. While visiting the Jasper Park Lodge,  many tourists watched as the very tall, dead Douglas fir trees on the property were being professionally cut down. They have the Fir beetle. The workers say that the Douglas Fir  only grows north as far as about Jasper, so they are stressed in this location, so are easy prey to the beetle. The earth shook as the trees fell, and we took a few photos below.

“The mountain pine beetle burrow in the tree bark, releasing a fungus that clogs and destroys the connective tissues of the trees. So after the eggs hatch the larvae mine the phloem which is the layer between the bark and the wood. Trees can die within weeks of an attack. The pines turn red after they have succumbed to the beetles’ onslaught.

According to Parks Canada, 163,000 hectares of forest in Jasper National Park have been infected by mountain pine beetles.

The Alberta government with assistance from the Federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to stop the spread of the pest. The decade-long efforts have slowed the beetle’s movement toward the carefully managed forests that supply wood for lumber and other purposes located to the east of Jasper. Mountain pine beetles are native to B.C., but are considered an invasive species in Alberta. 

Unfortunately the national park has been changed forever by the beetle’s presence. “The populations in Jasper have reached an epidemic level and they’ve been going like that for at least several years,” said Allan Carroll, a professor of insect ecology and director of the forest sciences program at the University of British Columbia. “As a consequence, there are so many beetles that there’s not much that can be done and instead, Jasper is just going to have to learn to adapt to a whole bunch of dead pine trees in their forests.”

Red Trees Infested with Pine Beetle, Photo credit Lucy

Carroll says the forests of Jasper won’t always be filled with rust-coloured trees. After a few years, the red needles fall off, leaving a grey-coloured tree. The human eye will eventually adjust how it sees the landscape, naturally focusing more on the green shrubs and healthy growth that will surround the dead trees. In four, five or maybe 10 years time, it won’t be that obvious, except to the trained eye, that there has been an outbreak there at all,” he said. 

Fire Threats

But in the meantime, some Jasper residents are increasingly worried about not just the esthetics of red, rusty forests, but also the fire hazards that accompany several square kilometres of dry trees. Christine Nadon, who manages communications for the town of Jasper, said dry conditions are not new for the town and that both the town and Parks Canada are prepared for potential fires. This year they have ramped up training, equipment and collaboration with regards to potential fires. As well an area west of the Jasper townsite are having the dead trees thinned.”

Pine Beetle Decline in 2018-2019

“Good news, is that  delayed mating in 2018 and cold winter in 2019 killed off most of the pine beetle. Scientists sampled 25 sites in the park. After completing the survey in May, they found the mortality rate of the populations they examined was 98 per cent.  “This is really the first year that we’ve had significant decline in the population,” said Roger Brett, lead researcher of the study.

Brett said he has been mapping mortality rates of pine beetles in Jasper for six years and has never seen populations decline like this. Normally, they would double from one year to the next, he said. We are also cautioned that since these results are from sampled sites, it may not be accurate for all the Jasper National Park. Also if the pine beetle is not 100% removed they will continue to be a pest….but at least they are slowed down for awhile.”

How Pine Beetles are Managed

“Through the Pine Strategy, prescribed or controlled fire and strategic harvesting, Alberta is encouraging a more natural diversity of tree ages that will be more resilient to threats from destructive insects, disease and wildfire.

Short Term Strategy

Depending on the area or zone assigned to the forests based on an assessment of the level of MPB, there will be different levels of treatment. Level 1 treatment , also known as single-tree treatment, is a tactic that is among the most effective means of managing the beetle and is used on the “front line”  of beetle infestations, or Leading Edge Zone along the eastern slopes. Level 2 treatments of “block or patch harvesting” of trees is used in the Active Holding Zone.  Thirdly, where there is already a lot of destruction from pine beetle, (Inactive Holding Zone) the main goal is to focus on other forest management objectives such as: fish and wildlife habitat, timber, watershed protection and wildfire fuel management.

Long-term Strategy

“Alberta’s pine forests are made up of an abundance of over-mature trees susceptible to insect attacks and catastrophic wildfires. About 60% of Alberta’s pine forests consist of trees aged 80 years and older.

Alberta created the Pine Strategy to address the amount of timber susceptible to mountain pine beetle and create a broad cross-section of different tree-age classes in the forest that will be more resilient to threats from destructive insects, disease and wildfire.

Under this strategy, Alberta has identified the most susceptible stands and worked with Forest Management Agreement (FMA) holders to amend their current management plans to reduce the amount of susceptible pine, on their operating land-base, by up to 75% by 2026.”

Can you believe that it has been almost a year since our first blog? At the end of the month we will celebrate what we call “babyblog” by writing a blog looking back over the experience. We figure if this blog were a book it would be about 500 -600 pages long. We would love your feedback as we plan for our second year. 🙂