Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to the scientific term for the variety of life on Earth, in all its various formations and interactions. This can be made up of the individual gene compositions and species but also the ecosystems that they live a part of, for example the wide variety of life within rainforests or coral reefs. Everywhere on the planet, species co-exist and are dependent on one another. All life forms, including humans, are involved in these complex networks of interdependent relationships, which are called ecosystems.
Healthy ecosystems help regulate, clean and purify our air and water, they maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They provide raw materials and resources for medicines, clothing, heating, housing and other purposes. Our reliance on natural ecosystems forms the basis of our human civilization and economy.
Biodiversity is the key indicator of the health of an ecosystem. A wide variety of species will cope better with threats than a limited number of them in large populations. Even if certain species are affected by pollution, climate change or human activities, the ecosystem as a whole may adapt and survive. But the extinction of a species may have unforeseen impacts, sometimes snowballing into the destruction of entire ecosystems.
According to the United Nations 2019 report on sustainable development, The around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900
The Fellowship of the Trees is committed to the creation, nurturing and protection of all planetary ecosystems and biodiversity. We are committed within our actions to ensure that it is of support to the natural environment in every way possible. Therefore, we choose to work with expert environmentalists to ensure that every plantation, permaculture and land regeneration action we partake in is of benefit to the land, soil and all life forms a part of it.
“Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity,” – says Prof David Macdonald, at Oxford University.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein
Climate change refers to global and regional rise in planetary temperatures that have been more notably observed from mid to late 20th century. Rapidly increasing climate change has been highlighted as a result of anthropogenic (human) impact, increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide due to the use of fossil fuels, agricultural land conversion and deforestation.
As human ecosystems are intrinsically interlinked with biological and natural ecosystems, then it follows that the disruption of this relationship is likely to cause tremendous harm to all life upon the planet. Climate change has already been linked to the devastation of many human and animal lives throughout the world – resulting in the extinction of many species, droughts, storms, floods, crop damage and sea-level rise. This is currently most extremely felt by developing and impoverished countries and human communities. As such, climate change can also be attributed to the refugee crisis as those affected need to escape areas impacted by natural disasters, conflict, and famine.
In a report released by the IPCC entitled Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5ºC in October 2018, Climate scientists highlighted the rates of global warming throughout the planet which called for immediate, widespread action to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
In a further report in August 2019, Climate change and land It was found that future land use depends in part on climate change and the actions deployed to halt the rise in carbon emissions.
They looked at model pathways for change and found that to limit warming to 1.5ºC or well below 2°C it would require global land-based mitigation and land-use change, with most including different combinations of reforestation, afforestation, reduced deforestation, and bioenergy (renewable energy). A small number of modelled pathways achieve 1.5ºC with reduced land conversion and thus reduced consequences for desertification, land degradation, and food security.
In IPCC’s further report September 2019 — The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, it outlines impacts of climate change on coastal, ocean, polar and mountain ecosystems, as well as the impacts on the human communities that depend on these ecosystems.
The Fellowship of the Trees is committed as an organisation to be part of the global movement to prevent destructive climate change, through our own personal and professional practices, actions and projects. We believe that our duty whilst living upon the planet at this time is to be proactive in reducing and rebalancing our own carbon footprint, by being aware and responsible of how we live and work.
“We must cherish the natural world because we’re a part of it and we depend on it.” – David Attenborough
One the issues highlighted as being harmful for the environment by adversely affecting climate change and biodiversity is the issue of deforestation. Forest covers around 30% of the world’s land area, but they are vastly disappearing with a loss of 1.3 million square kilometers since 1990 (World Bank, 2016)
Deforestation is primarily caused by farming, livestock cultivation, logging, the mining and palm oil industry, along with urbanization. (Christina Nunuez, National Geograhic, 2019)
In the UK, there is now only 760,000 acres of ancient semi-natural woodland survives in Britain –which is less than 20% of the total wooded area.
We at the Fellowship of the Trees believe strongly in protecting all ancient Woodland, and advocating to prevent unnecessary deforestation both in the UK and internationally. We uphold the rights for all life to thrive and for natural ecosystems and forests to be protected as paramount to planetary health. As an organisation, we believe that the destruction of ancient woodland cannot simply be mitigated through re-planting, and therefore it is our responsibility to guard and preserve these established ‘elder’ ecosystems. We advocate the use of alternative, responsible and sustainable sources of fuel, food, and energy that will prevent further harm and destruction being done to our global ancient woodland, forests and rainforests.
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder
All life is Sacred
The notion of the sanctity of life is held amongst many religions, ethics, ancient and indigenous cultures throughout the world. Within Christianity, Druidry, paganism, shamanism, hinduism and so on, there are timelessly held beliefs that the Earth and the natural world are all sacred, essential and deserving of respect, gratitude and love.
In Greek Mythology the personification of the Earth as the ancient, matriarchal female deity ‘Gaia’ later was utilized within “The Gaia theory or the Gaia principle”. This theory proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.
Within some South American cultures and traditions such as the Quechua people of Peru, the Earth is known as “Pachamama”, honouring a living being that represents a ‘divine mother’ of which the human race are all born upon as her children.
Cross-culturally, many forms of spirituality honour the natural world within their tradition, and celebrate it for being our home. It is a celebration of the symbiotic relationship of Earth with all humans, elements, the plant and animal kingdoms, and describes a unification of the planet with spiritual life. The Lakota people, a Native American indigenous culture, use the words “Aho Mitakuye oyasin” which means to honour “all our relations” – a universal ‘family’ of all beings upon the planet. The utilization of sacred ceremonies, offerings, rituals, prayers and blessings are all expressions and practices in which people can show devotion to the Earth and the sanctity of all life.
At the Fellowship of the Trees, our vision and mission comes from our faith and belief in the sanctity of all life. This is from our own lives lived with spiritual awareness and reverence to the deeply connected, interconnected web of sacred life. When considering modern day western society and the rise of consumerist, capitalist culture, it feels to us at the Fellowship of the Trees that much of this ancient, ancestral wisdom that has formed the foundation of human evolution and culture is being forgotten. We live in times to witness an unprecedented ecological crisis happening in parallel with the global endeavour for economic growth and corporate greed. Therefore, it is apparent to us that there is a rising disconnect from the innate truth that all life is sacred, and humanity’s role to play within the relationship. The work of the Fellowship of the Trees holds the vision we may collectively create a world where humanity lives in ‘right relationship’ to themselves, the Earth and all beings. We wish for a world where as people we act from a place of peace and harmony within ourselves, and share this harmony through conscious, sustainable living and our relationships to others.
We work to combine sacred with environmental activism, based on author and teacher Andrew Harvey’s work: Sacred Activism is described as a “transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world.” (Andrew Harvey, Institute of Sacred Activism)
As an organisation, we promote all positive action that includes a conscious awareness and compassion for the planet and preserving life. However, as we are also non-denominational, and celebrate diversity, we understand that all paths and beliefs should be respected and included.
We believe that all service to the Earth and to support the natural world is valuable and important, and love should always be the most important motivating force.
“What a recovery of the wisdom of the Mother brings to all of us is the knowledge of inseparable connection with the entire creation and the wise, active love that is born from that knowledge.”– Andrew Harvey
“What knowing the Mother means above all is daring to put love into action. The Mother herself is love-in-action, love acting everywhere and in everything to make creation possible.” – Andrew Harvey
“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.” – Andrew Harvey
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir
Positive mental health and well-being is vital for every individual and society to thrive. Poor mental health can be caused by numerous biological, cognitive or environmental factors, ranging from genetic predispositions, neuro-chemical imbalances, traumatic events, and so on.
The demands of western society, including the need to meet one’s basic living needs through working life, cultural expectations, stress and social isolation can also all contribute to an individual experiencing an episode of poor mental health.
Furthermore, austerity measures have meant that mental health services are under pressure and limit, and it can often be extremely challenging for any given individual, particularly when needing to access through public services to get the support they need.
The suicide rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population is recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2018, with a 15% increase in deaths amongst the Scottish population.
Research has shown that our connection to nature is important and proves beneficial for our mental health. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mood, attention, reduce stress levels and even improve our interpersonal relationships (Chowdhury, MA 2020).
Environmental psychologists believe that the interaction and contribution of nature plays a significant role in human development, well-being and behaviour. Furthermore, disruptions in natural ecosystems and habitat in any given area invariably also negatively impact the human populations connected to them. Environmental psychologists highlight that our connection to nature enhances our spiritual wellness, we can experience a sense of gratitude and foster a desire to protect it.
‘Forest bathing’ has traditionally been used as a Japanese well-being practise, which has recently evolved in the West with ‘eco-therapy’.
In the groundbreaking book, ‘last child of the woods’ Richard Louv terms ‘Nature-deficit disorder’ as an issue that affects children, and demonstrates through his research that children who are deprived of contact with nature may demonstrate emotional or behavioural problems. Lou proposes that reconnecting children with nature can transform their lives, and so inspired an international movement of ‘forest schools’ and nature based therapies for children.
There is also a biological basis for our connection to nature; our interaction with the natural world helps our bodies to heal through exposure to vitamin D from the Sun, healthy bacteria in the soil and connecting with ‘detoxifying’ plants. Being in nature separates us from the electro-magnetic frequencies of being on-screen, providing opportunity for exercise and so increases our levels of positive ‘feel-good’ endorphins.
The Fellowship of the Trees is passionate about supporting individuals to improve their mental health and well-being through providing opportunity to connect and be of service to the Earth. Our project provides a space for all people, from all backgrounds to experience the enriching joys of nature.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” — Anne Frank
“To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“Counselling and psychotherapy cannot fully alleviate the [patient’s] symptoms unless they can treat the cause (the political and historical constellations that shape the era), and yet that cause is the exact subject psychology is not allowed to address… the critiques put forward by ecopsychology and ecotherapy, of dominant social norms which are inherently destructive to the environment and also destructive to the human race, are attempting to place counselling and psychotherapy within a wider cultural and political sphere where nature and the environment play a central role in mental health and well-being.” – Martin Jordan, much beloved in the EP community, from Ecotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, the book he co-edited with Joe Hinds in 2016.
“Our research shows people commissioning mental health services and social care that a holistic treatment like ecotherapy delivers not only health benefits, but wider social benefits and cost savings that medication could not. Ecotherapy improves mental wellbeing, it helps people to become more physically active, it gives people the skills to get back into work or training, and it helps people who are lonely or socially isolated to broaden their networks. These are all important factors that can prevent people developing a mental health problem to start with.” – Paul Farmer, CEO Mind 2013
Social isolation and loneliness is also a factor that can contribute to poor mental health and well-being, and is an ongoing issue for many people across the world. This again, is also linked in to our culture, western society of which there is a common lifestyle based on separation and high pressure working lives.
There is evidence to suggest that humans greatly benefit from being closely connected to people around them. A study by Harvard University 1938 carried out an 80-year study spans different ages, genders, races, and economic status. The most powerful finding in the study is good relationships keep us happier and healthier. There is a direct correlation if you are more socially connected to family, to friends, to a community, you are happier, you’re physically healthier, and you live longer than someone who is less well connected.
Community living and the way of the ‘tribe’ appears to be a rarity in Western cultures, and yet having good connections and relationships with those around us are important for us to thrive.
The Fellowship of the Trees believes that our relational networks are representative of the healthy ‘eco-systems’ that are vital to all of life. We wish to provide a space to bring people together, not only through our events and projects, but also within our partnerships with other community projects and organisations. We believe we can achieve more, and do more, to support the planet when we join together – and therefore we share the benefit of this experience together. We hope that through our work, people can meet and form connections and friendships through meaningful service. We aim to involve local communities within regional projects, and so foster lasting connections through love for their home land.
At the Fellowship of the Trees, we are a fellowship of earth protectors, activists, environmentalists and conscious, caring individuals. As an organisation, we mutually support and encourage each other, and we invite you to join our growing community.
“The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.” – (Rabindranath Tagore)