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 wordpress.com 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 https://flashforest.ca/. 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.” https://bit.ly/34lo2em. 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: https://spiritoftrees.org/poetry/think-like-a-tree.

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

3 thoughts on “One Year Reflections on Friends4Trees4Life

  1. njcampbellsympaticoca

    What a particularly lovely and informative blog! Congratulations to both Catherine and Lucy! Great photo of you two. Terrific inspirational work you’re doing. Nora

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. Wendy Curilla

    Love reading this! It makes me think that the dozen or so trees that I have planted across the street from me are worth it. Also glad that this past summer we removed the old diseased apple trees and some of the grass area and replanted with another apple tree, a Lilac tree, a sour cherry bush and many other perennials. My husband, Darrell, built 2 solitary bee houses for our yard as well – one for the vegetable garden and one for the perennial garden. Thanks goes to the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation society for the plans and idea of the solitary bee houses. Keep up the great work “Friends4Trees4Life” as I like seeing the articles and I am a believer that every tree counts!

    Liked by 1 person

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