If you love trees but aren’t familiar with Diana Beresford-Kroeger, it’s time to acquaint yourself with her work. A botanist, medical biochemist, author, and activist, her background combines western scientific training with traditional folk-knowledge and methods. Perhaps her strongest talent is her ability to bring an understanding and appreciation of the scientific complexities of nature to the general public. Breaking down big ideas into bites anyone can swallow, her books and lectures challenge ordinary people to foster a relationship with nature, view the environment as a biological system, and to perform the daunting ecological task of replanting the global forest.
Beresford-Kroeger can trace her profound knowledge of the influence and power of trees back to her childhood in Ireland and a turn of fate. Orphaned at 11 as the result of a car crash, she was taken in and raised by Irish elders who adhered to the ancient, pre-Magna Carta Celtic Brehon laws. “There,” she says, “I was taught all the laws of the trees, the laws of nature and its medicines.”
She first became widely known when she expanded and opened her private research garden and arboretum, Carrigliath, to the public and other researchers. Then, Beresford-Kroeger noticed that the scientific community often did not have the ability to present science to the public in a clear way. Knowing that she could bridge this gap and sensing an urgent need to address the degradation of nature, she began her career in writing, broadcasting, and lecturing. Since then, she has published over 200 articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers in Canada, the U.S., and internationally. She has also published five critically acclaimed books on nature and gardening.
Recently, Beresford-Kroeger has broken into a new medium – film. Her documentary Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, has made an impressive impact on the naturalist community. Beginning in her own research garden Carrigliath and then moving to California, Ireland, and Japan, she investigates and showcases the great forests of the Northern Hemisphere, along the way meeting other experts who present the latest scientific wisdom on the primary role played by trees in our planet’s health. Her audience introduced to revolutionary tree scientists, foresters, and activists who are working to protect and replant the world’s northern forests. Along the way:
- Akira Miyawaki explains how a native forest system can be planted even in the smallest urban corner of Tokyo.
- Bill Libby speaks about the impact climate change is having on California’s coastal redwood and giant sequoia forests.
- Andrew St. Ledger discusses his work restoring native woodlands in Ireland.
- The Anishinaabe people of Pimachiowin Aki show the viewer their 33,400 square kilometers of boreal forest in Canada, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The documentary concludes with Beresford-Kroeger calling the audience to action with her ambitious Bioplan. The Bioplan encourages ordinary people to join together and replant the global forest, developing a new relationship with nature. The 5 facets of the Bioplan are simple:
- Commit to plant one native tree per year for the next six years.
Other simple strategies to help:
- Encourage your friends and neighbors to plant native trees.
- Protect the trees in your neighborhood.
- Protect the native forests in your community by getting involved and writing letters to your government representatives.
- Help keep the Boreal Forest intact!
For viewers who can’t tell a beech from a birch, there is the Find-A-Tree app, which was released with the film. The app lists native tree species based on the user’s location and describes each tree’s characteristics, medicinal, and environmental benefits, as well as planting requirements and instructions. The app is currently available for mobile download in your app store!
The Call of the Forest tackles the very real and very daunting task at hand to save our environment. We have lost greater than 95% of the world’s forests and we continue to lose more than one hundred and forty square kilometers of forest per day. Only 5% of the world’s old growth native forests currently remain. However, beneath this call to action is a story of triumph. In Beresford-Kroeger’s Bioplan, we hold a simple strategy for each of us to restore and protect our forests. The biggest message viewers take away from the film is that they can indeed do something. Working together, across borders and oceans, people can take action and improve the planet as a whole. Check out The Call of the Forest or any of Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s excellent written works – they are sure to give you a dose of inspiration and enhance your knowledge of the world’s forests.
Mack, Adrian. “Diana Beresford-Kroeger shares the ancient wisdom of the trees.”
Bakacs, Michele et al. “Assessment of Car Wash Runoff Treatment Using Bioretention Mesocosms.”
Image courtesy of Call of the Forest