The UK-based charity, TreeSisters‘ feminine response to climate change hopes to shift humanity’s identity from a consumer to a restorer species, calling for collective responsibility and planetary restoration through a reforestation revolution. It nurtures ordinary women to do extraordinary things.
To date, TreeSisters has planted seven million trees — and counting.
Tree Loss Outpaces Tree Planting
Each year our world loses 3.5 to 7 billion trees.
“Reforestation efforts are at half the pace of the tree loss,” explains Clare Dubois, Founder of TreeSisters, the UK charity now expanding internationally with non-profit status in the U.S. and Australia. “Our environment is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. The indigenous people tell us we have five years to reverse our current climate status.”
Across eight countries, TreeSisters’ 18 staff members, supported by thousands of monthly donors, have helped fund the planting of over seven million trees in the last five years. The planting has also lifted the socio-economic status of populations directly affected by climate change, providing jobs and engaging locals in planting.
“But we probably haven’t slowed down climate change, given the levels of tree loss overall,” Dubois conceded. “Our world is spraying metal into the sky to seed rain, without acknowledging that this is killing the trees which are nature’s own rain creators.”
Dubois underscores how our domination of nature and destruction of living systems has severely harmed our planet’s healthy growth.
Dubois presses for the feminine to work with nature’s own living systems “to strengthen the web of life, not to usurp its own functions, poison it and ultimately watch it burn and further exacerbate levels of atmospheric carbon that speed up warming.”
Sisterhood of Trees
At the end of 2009, Dubois received the blueprint and concept of TreeSisters when her car slid off an icy road and crashed into a tree. She then heard a voice literally detail the project word for word. For nearly a year after the crash and hearing the voice, she engaged in “deep soul searching around starting a movement” before founding TreeSisters.
TreeSisters hopes to reinstate feminine leadership on behalf of the global forests by embedding reciprocity with nature and putting an end to “mindless destruction.”
Empowering women to become a force and an inspiration to themselves, their family and greater community, TreeSisters asks for a collective responsibility for planetary restoration, through reforestation, to help reverse climate change. TreeSisters has begun work with corporations in hospitality, cosmetics, conferences and event organizers to instill a “giving back philosophy” to increase awareness of solutions and reduce mindless consumption.
“Awareness is happening and could have a huge impact, but we’re not there yet,” says Dubois.
Restoring Carbon Storehouses-Tropical Forests
The Earth’s forests are the planet’s largest carbon storehouses after oceans.
Forests preserve our planet’s ecosystem, balance our climate and offer food, water, fuel, and byproducts to over 2 billion people. Forests safeguard our planet’s biodiversity and offer jobs for over 13 million people worldwide. Over 300 million people–among them, some 60 million indigenous people–live in forests.
Between 1990 and 2015, our disregard for the Iroquois philosophy of Seven Generation — considering our decisions’ impact on the next seven generations — destroyed 129 million acres of forest lands. That’s the landmass of South Africa.
Topsoil eroded from deforested hills washes into the sea, destroying coral reefs, choking sea life, and depleting fisheries that support surrounding communities. Tropical soils devoid of trees can turn into a desert. Rivers dry up leading to loss of agricultural fertility. Poverty levels rise as does suicide by desperate farmers.
Reforestation can reverse this by restoring groundwater, rejuvenating the soil, restoring habitat for endangered species, supporting sustainable livelihoods and capturing atmospheric carbon to mitigate climate change.
Through its Grow Your Own Forest, TreeSisters calls for a global action to shift the planetary climate imbalance. Individuals can join TreeSisters to “restore, protect, love and grow their own forest.”
Donors can fund a “personal forest” with a percentage of their income or by joining with friends and neighbors to raise funds to grow a forest as a group. Ultimately, the donors can monitor the growth and success of their collective action and witness the real impact across tropical forests.
Reforesting from Amazonia to Madagascar
TreeSisters has joined efforts with international partners to support local indigenous communities with tree reforestation in Amazonia, Brazil, India, Nepal, Cameroon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, and West Papua. These projects have reversed land destruction, revived livelihoods and restored wildlife habitat.
Take, for example, Cameroon’s Mount Bamboutos. Rising above 1,700 meters, the “cloud forest” is home to a wide diversity of mammals including the endangered forest elephant, Preuss’ guenon, Cross River gorilla and the highly endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Overpopulation and rapid use of fertilizers and pesticides threaten the Western Cameroon Highlands’ volcanic line. In partnership with International Tree Foundation (ITF), TreeSisters will plant 600,000 trees across an area the size of 4,000 soccer fields benefiting 1,000 households across three villages.
In Nepal, at the foothills of the Himalayas, sits the Terai forest, recognized by World Wildlife Fund as one of our planet’s most biodiverse. In partnership with Eden Projects and the Terai Forest Restoration Project, TreeSisters is planting trees around intact forest to protect the remaining vibrant lowland tropical forests bordering India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
TreeSisters and Eden Project are also restoring the severely deforested Bela Vista village in Mozambique. They have hired 25 residents, of whom 15 are women, to plant 750,000 trees per year, including at least 10 percent agroforestry trees as alternatives to mangrove timber extraction.
“Where old growth or intact forest exists, we try to grow buffer zone forests around them to help protect and preserve their endangered species. Wherever planting is happening, you change the financial status of the people and the socio-economy directly involved with the environment. In Nepal, women managers are now hiring women to grow and plant the trees, which is amazing–and together they are watching elephants return to their habitat,” says Dubois. “Bring back forests and you bring back water, biodiversity and health-you bring back life.”
Global Web of Nature-Based Women’s Circles
“We base everything we do on the model gifted to us by the forest floor itself-a network of mutually supporting trees, each dynamically and literally connected to every other tree, all of them looking out for each other, and caring for each other,” says Dubois. “That is how we see the global network of treesisters functioning to support each other’s creativity and leadership.”
Over 1,000 treesisters form the global web of “collaborative, heart based, women’s circles” called Groves. Operating as local chapters across 30 countries, Groves bring together women for what TreeSisters call the “in-breath and out-breath” — giving first to yourself and then to your surrounding nature. Nearly 2,000 women worldwide are impacted, with rippling circles reaching countless women.
TreeSisters also offers global meditations, audio tools, online support communities and courses. Over 20,000 have completed the TreeSisters’ free, six-week “Inner Journey” course. The step-by-step process supports the shift from apathy to activism.
The “A Wild Soul Woman” course teaches women to “live from the heart of their true nature” and peel away oppressive behaviors of obedience that “cause suppression of life force and creativity.” Stepping into a conscious relationship with the five archetypal ancestral landscapes — Deserts, Forests, Oceans, Mountains and Grasslands — the course fast-tracks a return to wholeness and connection with nature.
“Women have a vast amount to give, and we’re needed, but we’ve been tamed. Too many of us are still afraid to offer our gifts, but we must, to help our world shift out of the patriarchal experiment and into a way of being that consciously serves life with everything it’s got.”
TreeSisters is an invitation for women to step into a sisterhood that says “yes to life” while actively seeding for future generations, says Dubois. While focused on women, it is inclusive of every gender with one caveat: “show up in service to life, in conscious support of everyone in the network and bring trees into your life and keep them there.”
“If everyone was giving back to the planet by funding trees every month, we would be halfway out of our climate mess, rather than waiting for someone else to save us. And with trees costing only 50 cents it is something all of us can do,” Dubois challenged.