One of my earliest memories is of lying on my belly on a warm paver under the plum tree in our garden. It was high summer and the smell of fermenting plums rose around me. I watched the ants at their work and spent hours talking to the snap dragon flowers.
It was the most peaceful I can ever remember being - totally at home in nature. In those days the world seemed to be filled with marvels - elephants, rhinos, jaguars, miraculously tall trees, incredible forests. In just 45 years, the world has changed so much.
According to multiple Indigenous tribes of our world, we have seven years before climate extremes worldwide are so severe that all of life is endangered. The International Panel on Climate Change has said we have 12 years to radically change the way we live before climatic changes are beyond repair. Either way, it’s not long.In 12 years my youngest child, Laif, will be 20. What kind of world will he inherit?
Climate extremes are already here - we know all about this in Australia with increased number and duration of catastrophic wildfires, heat extremes, flooding, and unprecedented extinction rates.
We face a total lack of leadership from our governments at every level on these issues. Yet, right now, humanity is standing at a choice point that will define all our futures.
This point in our evolution is the greatest opportunity any generation has ever had to completely redefine what it means to be human - to evolve from unconscious consumers to conscious restorers of the planet we all depend on.
What happens in your body when you reflect on the words ‘climate change’? I feel a contraction around my heart, anxiety rising and a sense of powerlessness and grief. I feel the kind of desperation about my children’s futures that makes me want to turn away from it all and play solitaire, or watch endless movies, or visit the fridge, or go and buy meaningless stuff.
Those words – climate change - invoke fear, helplessness, apathy, contraction and avoidance. Every single one of us is contributing to the changes - driving our cars, using our phones and devices to communicate with each other, we’re are all a part of the problem.
And yet we can engage directly with that problem and reposition climate change as our greatest challenge to rise to and really discover what we’re made of.
I discovered TreeSisters in 2011. A video of Clare Dubois, the founder, somehow crossed my path. I watched and listened to her and wept. Not because of the tragedy unfolding in our world, but because her words spoke directly to the hope in my heart.
Her words touched my basic need for my children to have a viable future, my love for this beautiful world, and my desire to do something that would actually make a difference.
TreeSisters offered me something very different to the masculine oriented activism that burnt me out as a young woman. It started in a car crash. Clare, our founder, crashed her car into a tree. She emerged from the wreckage with an impassioned desire to take action on climate change in the following key ways: mobilise the women of the world; reforest the tropics in 10 years; make it as normal to give back to Nature as it currently is to take from life; reinstate feminine consciousness in the world; and call everything an experiment because you can’t fail an experiment, you can only learn.
Why mobilise the women and reinstate feminine consciousness? Many of you already know that feminine consciousness includes receptivity, reflective capacity, intuition, the deep wisdom of emotion, the ability to gestate, the capacity to connect and collaborate, and to care. To deeply care.
These human traits have been suppressed and rejected over hundreds and hundreds of years, as women have been oppressed, and the Earth has been pillaged as a resource, rather than revered as the incredible living system that supports us all.
Feminine consciousness must be reinstated to bring our world back into balance. The way to reinstate it is to encourage and support women’s leadership. Not women leading as men have for eons. But women rediscovering who and what we’re really capable of when we’re connected to our own deeper natures and Nature herself.
Embedded in the feminine is deep care. But along with care comes the grief that so many are feeling in the face of our changing climate.
We have lost the perceived stability that our parents’ generation had. We have lost countless species. We live in times of exceptionally rapid change. For most people, it’s easier to turn away from deep care, away from grief.
And that’s why we are building a movement. Alone we turn away. Together we have the capacity to be so much more. Together we can allow ourselves to feel the grief. Together we find the courage and creativity to act that are on the other side of grief.
The strange thing about grief is that when you let yourself feel it in your body - it shifts - it can become creative energy in motion.
At TreeSisters, we are building a global movement of empowered, courageous, caring women who are taking action for the restoration of our world. We are in essence a women-led reforestation revolution with sacred reciprocity at its core.
We have so far put well over three million trees in the ground in the tropics through the generosity and love of women in our network. We are giving back to the Earth that sustains us.
We are creating resilience and strength through unity - rising in actionfrom a place of connection with Nature.
Our uniqueness is that we are addressing the roots of apathy and behaviour change through some seriously effective tools to support women into their leadership. Our world needs a shift in mindset, more feminine leadership and more trees fast.
For those who don’t know, trees are critical to our survival and to a thriving planet. They do many amazing things, including: seeding rainfall, filtering pollution from the air, protecting soils from temperature extremes, producing aerosols that improve human and animal health and so much more.
Tree planting is one of the primary ways to mitigate climate change, and not just through carbon storage. For this world to thrive, we need biodiversity. Many of the species that have been lost in recent years have vanished because their habitats have disappeared. Those habitats were forests. There are so many reasons to plant trees.
The Nature Conservancy have said that at every level of leadership, from local communities to national government, conservation outcomes improve when women are involved.
One global study found that women landownership directly correlates with better soil conservation, increased crop yields and decreased deforestation. We have enormous power to create change. We influence our children, our families, extended families and communities. Women have the power to change the world for the better for everyone.
At TreeSisters we have discovered that women who feel supported and encouraged, connected to each other, and in touch with their own deeper nature and the Nature around them, rise into all kinds of action on behalf of life, some in ways we’d never anticipated.
Some of these women are funding trees in the tropics. We fund six incredible projects in Brazil, Madagascar, Kenya, India, Cameroon and Nepal.
My favourite project is the Madagascar one where we are funding the work of Eden projects. Mangroves grow in the saline coastal habitats of the tropics and subtropics. They are powerful carbon sequesters, soil stabilizers and tidal buffer zones as sea levels rise and storms intensify, causing yet more precious top soil to erode into the oceans.
These 'sea trees' also provide nursery habitat for countess species of fish that provide income and food for the desperately poor communities that Eden serves.
In Madagascar, whole villages are enslaved to fish barons – boat and net owners who loan out their vessels for a specific yield, which if not met, places their fishermen and women permanently in debt.
Enslavement comes with its various horrors, including giving children into slavery and much worse for the women. Eden go in, work with the community and employ them to grow and plant saplings on very large tracts of land. 60-70 percent of their workers are women who get out of debt, get their kids into school with many starting their own micro-enterprises as well.
Eden literally turn the enslaved into the foresters of our world, whole villages at a time. We have so far funded the planting of 2.3 million mangrove trees in Madagascar.
Women are also taking amazing actions in their own localities. We have women like Laura in Manchester, who stepped into her leadership and galvanised her community into cleaning up degraded land in their village.
Women fundraising for the trees. Women finding their voice and speaking at senate hearings on the environment. Women taking their lids off and requesting in online forums that their neighbours stop using herbicides on their lawns. Women thinking deeply about the choices they make with their shopping dollars - how can we spend our money in ways that give back to life?
These may seem like small actions, but collectively they are huge and are contributing to our shift from consumer to restorer species. Every single one of us has the capacity to make a difference where we are, as we are. Every tiny action creates ripples.
Many of us are surrounded by naysayers - people who have given into cynicism and fatalism. What if it’s too late? What if planting trees isn’t enough? What if they don’t grow fast enough? What if, what if …
The beauty of TreeSisters is that it’s all an experiment. In an experiment, you never fail, you only learn.
We have a growing global network of thousands and thousands of women which is supporting itself to learn what works and what doesn’t. We are learning and adapting as we go. As women, mothers and lovers of the Earth, we are rewriting the future and preserving our children’s natural heritage.
On Friday 8 and Saturday 9 March, women in 19 countries across the planet will be rallying together to sing for trees to commemorate International Women’s Day, as part of our TreeSisters ‘Sing for the Trees’ campaign. We are gathering women together to raise our voices for the trees, to increase awareness of how important they are, and how important women’s roleis in the restoration of our world.
Details of Sing for the Trees activities happening in the UK and across the globe can be found on the TreeSisters Facebook events page. TreeSisters are encouraging women worldwide to take a leadership roleand set up their own Sing for the Trees events.
The charity is also inviting women to use the opportunity to take some restorative time out in nature from their typically busy lives as primary care-givers.Singing for the trees is a way of making a connection with the forests we love, and having fun together with fellow women who care for the Earth.
This International Women’s Day, we invite women to step into leadership and coordinate a Sing for the Trees event for their communities, knowing they are supported by our global community.
Pollyanna Darling is leading the TreeSisters ‘Sing for the Trees’ campaign on International Women’s Day to raise awareness of the crucial role trees play in mitigating climate change and the vital role women are contributing to the restoration of the world's forests.