I was delighted to have been asked to contribute from Ireland to a Creative Carbon Scotland ‘Green Tease’, event in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, on 26 March 2023. I was asked to respond to the phrase -“The Right Tree in the Right Place” but found myself arguing instead for the “Right Forestry Practice in the Right Place”, especially in light of the UN’s growing calls for urgent ecosystem restoration in this decade. (My ongoing Hollywood Forest Story is recognized and summarized as an innovative case study in Creative Carbon Scotland’s Library of Creative Sustainability)
Please note: I wrote this article to respond to the shock I was processing when Cyclone Gabrielle (the last of a series of extreme catastrophic weather events over Jan.-Feb) hit my home area in Aotearoa New Zealand in Feb 2023. News in Ireland and the UK of these extreme weather events in NZ was overshadowed by the Turkish/Syrian earthquake around the same time.
As a result of witnessing what happens when climate change-fuelled events meet unsustainable forestry practices, and to places I know and care about (see more on how NZ’s Cyclone Gabrielle (Feb 2023) highlighted and exacerbated the disaster of plantation clearfell forestry in NZ – 1News TV Broadcast, with one of NZ’s most respected investigative journalists John Campbell: https://youtu.be/hbdyeHvwCqo [aired Feb 2023]), I feel strongly that we must begin talking about forest restoration rather than focus attention on individual tree species, important as that is. Here my thinking aligns with the United Nations which has urged all countries to prioritize global ecosystem restoration this decade, calling for 30% of Earth’s land, oceans, and river areas to be restored by 2030 (Montreal, COP 15, 2022).
These calls by the UN are crucial to address ecological collapse (scientists confirm business as usual, current land practices, are inadvertently advancing a 6th Great Extinction event where mass species collapse threatens a livable future, Kolbert 2014). From these perspectives, I believe strongly that we need to start talking about the importance of implementing the Right Forestry Practice in the Right Places, rather than the Right Tree in the Right Place, to convey the necessarily urgent global shift toward more ecological/integrated forestry (I was to find Ken Weaver, a forestry lecturer in NZ has also indicated a similar argument in an article published at the beginning of the storm cycle in NZ, Weaver, Jan. 2023). In other words, I argue our messaging for wiser, new forestry practices needs to change to reflect these key global and national restoration priorities.
I strongly feel from this heightened personal experience, that talking instead of the Right Forestry Practice in the Right Place, maybe a means for forestry NGOs, policymakers and the media to begin to communicate to society the significance of managing our forests and ecosystems as a whole (for multiple environmental, economic, social and intergenerational benefits), in line with the scale of the ecological emergencies we face.
And why is this messaging important? One of the major impediments to implementing change at this scale is low levels of ecological understanding across society; sustainability education, although in operation over recent decades, is only beginning to promote wiser ecological understanding that human (and other species) survival is dependent on flourishing ecosystems; this is an immense cultural shift, a new paradigm for the dominant culture which has prioritised economic and human wellbeing over wider ecological understanding over millennia.
In these urgent times, it is urgent we convey better ecological understanding.
Sharing ideas about the ‘Right Forestry Practices in the Right Places’, rather than the ‘Right Tree in the Right Place’ will signal a shift commensurate to the scale of efforts needed.
Ultimately we need both the forest sector and society to fully understand why establishing wiser, more ecological forestry practices on a large scale is vital to rally widespread support for the forestry sector’s critical role in the UN-nominated global decade of ecosystem restoration 2021-2030. And that overall, living well with forests is part of ‘The New Story’ that the great ecological thinker Thomas Berry called for –that we act for the communion of life so as to foster an enduring, equitable, sustainable and peaceful world.
Other people have been interested in this event, read the follow-up post here
Creative Carbon Scotland is a world-leading art and sustainability organisation developed over a decade ago.
About Green Tease
The Green Tease events series and network is a project organised by Creative Carbon Scotland, bringing together people from arts and environmental backgrounds to discuss, share expertise, and collaborate. Green Tease forms part of our culture/SHIFT programme.
Here is a summary of my key points and links and videos below.
Stories for a Wiser Forestry: arguing for the right forestry practices in the right places
Cathy Fitzgerald, 27 March 2023
The phrase ‘the right tree in the right place’ commonly repeated by politicians internationally in regards to the value of appropriate tree-planting, offered Ireland-based New Zealand artist and ecoliteracy educator Cathy Fitzgerald an opportunity to think more deeply about wiser ecological permanent forestry. With the recent 2023 IPCC report again confirming that business-as-usual is threatening the life support systems of Earth, wiser ecological forestry is urgently needed-at-scale, as an alternative to ecocidal clear-fell monoculture forestry, to foster enduring personal, collective, planetary and intergenerational well-being.
The presentation gives a sense of Fitzgerald’s creative story-telling for wiser forestry through her blogging at Hollywood Forest Story.com (this website). Since 2008, she has through online writing, photography and video reflected on, shared and developed an audience interested in her firsthand experiences of learning how to transform a tiny 2-acre conifer plantation in rural Ireland, into a more resilient mixed-species forest (through selective tree-thinning that encourages regeneration of mixed tree species) with new-to-Ireland Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry practices that are more developed across some areas of Europe. Fitzgerald’s ongoing Hollywood Forest Story is recognized and summarized as an innovative case study in Creative Carbon Scotland’s Library of Creative Sustainability.
The diary form of Fitzgerald’s blog (now with an archive of her creative activities) has helped her reflect over several years on the emergent story of more ecological permanent forestry worldwide. She frames this work as a shift to a more life-promoting Symbiocene era (Albrecht, 2019) where ecosystems flourishing are prioritized, rather than clear-fell monoculture plantation forestry that is emblematic of the entrenched life-limiting mono-extractive mindset of the Anthropocene, also aptly described by Harroway and other scholars as the Plantationocene (edgeeffect.net) Through her other work to provide ecological learning -ecoliteracy- to creative professionals (at Haumea Ecoversity.ie), she also connects ecological art practices to the fore of the global cultural shift to sustainability education (ESD) and broader integrated intrinsic values needed (best expressed in the peoples and twice UNESCO-endorsed Earth Charter 2000), to guide people think and act holistically for a more just, equitable and sustainable world.
Fitzgerald’s Hollywood Forest Story, follows other pioneering ecological artists’ work, like the late Helen and Newton Harrison’s important early 1990s Serpentine Lattice work, that on a larger scale, looked at the devastation of monoculture clearfell forestry in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. Fitzgerald similarly promotes collective creative storytelling to foster and document a shift in conversations for new permanent forestry practices for other landowners and ideas for a more ecologically-sustainable national forestry policy.
This presentation also allowed New Zealand-born Fitzgerald to process the recent heartache – the solastalgia (Albrecht, 2019) of how climate-fuelled extreme weather from Cyclone Gabrielle (February 2023) caused monoculture clear-fell forest site waste to devastate regions and communities in NZ. In doing so, she underlines why her and others’ efforts working in NGOs are important to foster wiser forest policy and government programmes. In other words, the soliphilia (Albrecht, 2019) -the positivity, interconnectedness and empowerment needed to advance permanent, continuous cover, more beautiful bird-song-filled forests in Ireland and elsewhere.
My thanks to Maja Rimer, culture/SHIFT officer at Creative Carbon Scotland for this invitation to contribute to the Green Tease event.
Jan Alexander, founder of the Irish NGOs Crann and past Chair of ProSilva Ireland
For thoughts on the power of small groups and NGOs using dialogue for social change, I’m indebted to philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis’ (DangerousWisdom.org) views on Salon Culture, Salon Nature and his article ‘Stieglitz and LoveWisdom: A Contemplation of Salon Culture and Wisdom-Based Learning Experiences’ (2021)
I’m also indebted to Martin Lyttle for his ongoing support for The Hollywood Forest Story and his encouragement to me to create this presentation.
Read a summary of Cathy Fitzgerald’s ‘Hollywood Forest Story’ in Creative Carbon Scotland’s Library of Creative Sustainability https://www.creativecarbonscotland.com/library/the-hollywood-forest-story/
See also Fitzgerald’s blog: https://HollywoodForest.com
Read more about Cathy’s ecoliteracy courses for mid-career creatives and cultural professionals at https://HaumeaEcoversity.ie (Spring 2023 courses just announced)
See more on how NZ’s Cyclone Gabrielle (Feb 2023) highlighted and exacerbated the disaster of plantation clearfell forestry in NZ – 1News TV Broadcast, with one of NZ’s most respected investigative journalists John Campbell: https://youtu.be/hbdyeHvwCqo [aired Feb 2023]
Read Pro Silva Ireland co-founder Paddy Purser’s article on Irish Government’s new Forestry programme now supporting Continuous Cover Forestry, March 23, 2023 https://www3.farmersjournal.ie/continuous-cover-forestry-a-management-system-worth-considering-753909
PATHWAYS TO TRANSITION The Aotearoa New Zealand Tīmata Method for Low-Cost Native Forest – Returning large areas of erodible land in New Zealand into native forest (ngahere) https://ourlandandwater.nz/news/the-timata-method-for-low-cost-native-forest/
Read more about the Symbiocene, solastalgia and soliphilia here: https://hollywoodforest.com/2019/05/10/good-bye-anthropocene-hello-symbiocene/
Albrecht, Glenn (2019) Earth Emotions – New Words for a New World. Cornell’s Uni Press.
Read about the Plantationcene here: https://edgeeffects.net/plantationocene-series-plantation-worlds/
Weaver, Ken (2023) ‘Right Forest: Right Place’. Scoop, 12 January. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU2301/S00044/right-forest-right-place.htm
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