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A tree is for life, not just for Christmas!

There is something quite magical about trees. From the food we eat to the air we breath trees sustain us. They provide us with medicines, enrich our soils, cleanse our water tables, build and furnish our homes, provide shade and coalesce the clouds that bring us fresh rain water. Trees soothe us emotionally, for no matter how down we may feel, we always feel a little better when we can get ourselves to a park or forest and commune with a tree.

What could be a better symbol of hope and renewal than a tree?

You may be surprised to learn that the humble Christmas tree actually pre-dates “Christmas” by many thousands of years. The winter solstice celebration currently known as Christmas has in fact gone by many names, and has had many religious rituals attached to it throughout the ages.

The Pagans used to use evergreen branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as a reminder that the renewal of spring would soon be with them. The ancient Romans even used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia, so there is nothing new, or exclusively christian about lopping down a tree and dragging it inside for the mid winter festival.

While the global figures are difficult to calculate the USA chops down and sells around 40 million live christmas trees every year, but this is not an entirely bad thing. It means there is somewhere in the vicinity of 400 million trees in the USA, (sorry don’t have Australian figures), now growing that wouldn’t be there but for the Christmas market, (and 400 million trees is a lot of carbon abatement).

With roughly 40% of live Christmas trees subsequently being recycled, and the fact that fir trees don’t need as high a quality soil as other crops, (so they can utilise otherwise degraded land), using a real tree is, on the face of it, a far better option than using a fake one.

“The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal”. NY times

Even so, the arbitrary chopping down trees is not something we should be taking lightly. The fact is we are in big environmental trouble, and deforestation is a large part of our problem.


Forests currently cover about 30 % of the world’s land mass but according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest – roughly the size of Panama – are lost each year and about half of the world’s tropical forests have already been cleared; with forest loss contributing between 12 and 17 % of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the reckless felling of the world’s forests doesn’t just pose a threat to our global climate, it also endangers global food security. Soil erosion, soil salinity, drought, and desertification are just some of the devastating consequences of industrial forestry and farming practices.

burkina_faso_black_hand_955x415_0 While there are a plethora of ideas and arguments on how to manage the climate crisis, many suggestions, like geo-engineering, could expose the planet to utterly terrifying unforeseen consequences. There is however one rather unassuming solution being proposed that is, (as far as anyone has been able to ascertain), totally free from any negative consequences…


worth of a tree

It’s hardly a radical proposition, as pretty much everyone agrees that if we are to avoid a catastrophic environmental collapse we need to preserve the trees and forests we already have, and we desperately need to plant more!

There is plenty of good science behind this too. Trees release chemicals that form clouds, and clouds not only bring rain, but they also reflect sunlight and act like a heat shield. Trees can literally cool the planet if we plant enough of them. But the good news doesn’t stop there, planting trees can repair degraded landscapes and provide food, employment and business opportunities where there is currently nothing but despair.

This inspiring video, narrated by Stephen Fry is an insight into what we can achieve if we all pull together.

At this point I would like to introduce you to “WE FOREST”, a non profit TREE PLANTING NGO that in spite of being very well known in Europe, (and having been founded by noted Melbourne expat Bill Liao), has thus far remained fairly low profile here in Australia.

With the modest aim of planting two trillion trees, rehabilitating degraded land and cooling the planet, (all while providing food, business opportunities and employment for locals), WE FOREST has planted more than 6 million trees so far, and is currently doubling it’s total plant every year.


Giving trees for Christmas is something that I am doing this year, and it’s something I am inviting you to do with me. In just a few clicks, you can offset your entire carbon footprint for the year, or buy trees as a gift for your loved ones. (You will get a nice certificate via email stating how many trees you have bought on their behalf, and you can add a personal message too). The trees you donate, (and their associated permaculture forests) are monitored to ensure they remain in place, so you can rest assured that your gift will be one that will keep on giving for generations to come.

When you add up all the benefits of strategic tree planting the upside is absolutely astounding, and at approximately $1 a tree, the cost is surprisingly small. What better gift to give your children than to match the cost of this year’s Christmas tree with the gift purchase of REAL LIVING GROWING TREES that will help secure a better future for the planet and our entire human family?

tree huggers

Best of the season to you all.



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  1. Annie B

    Letitia ………. that is an absolutely superb article.

    Brilliant ideas ….. and the facts put forward, very true.

    Abbott wanted to get stuck into Tasmania’s wilderness this year, to ‘reclaim’ and log more of that superb wild beauty, but was rejected outright by everyone concerned, particularly World Heritage …… typical of him, huh ?

    Continual logging will and has endangered the earth and many species. ….. It is particularly difficult to get that message across to countries in South America – and others. ……. and that is a big problem.


    Well done Letitia – well done.

  2. Annie B

    p.s ( to Letitia ) . ……. The “WE FOREST ” idea is particularly wonderful. I have some small self – sown trees I can pot and give away at Christmas. ( we live in the Dandenongs – east of Melbouirne ) …. and birds ‘do a lot of planting’ …. and if some in my garden are not suitable, I can buy them from a nursery or Bunnings.

    Stunning idea. …….. the narrative by Stephen Fry was very powerful …. hope absolutely everyone has a look at it.

  3. Florence nee Fedup

    Why is Green Army pulling weeds, not planting trees.? Why s this seen as giving so called volunteers a trade. Something that has been done for generations by lowly skilled council workers.

  4. bobrafto

    We have an organization called Landcare which has been going for 30years or so and guess what? they have been planting trees, fixing soil degradation etc etc, until the Abbott came along and withdrew the funding. http://www.landcareonline.com.au/?page_id=26 Worth having a peek.

  5. bobrafto

    I just had another look at landcare and it appears it may be morphing into the Green Army. Landcare was the initiative of Joan kirner and subsequently as it spread across the country it was the Hawke Govt who provided funding.

    It appears that Abbott is appropriating a Labor initiative as his.

  6. corvus boreus

    Thank you Letitia.
    The role of canopy vegetation is so undervalued, an often neglected factor in human influence over the climate.
    Forests graduate temperature, shading from scorching and insulating against freezing.
    Trees affect the composition of the atmosphere, releasing oxygen as they lock carbon into their system.
    Huge volumes of water are stored in their structures. They are, to varying degrees, hydro-tumescent, filled out and held aloft by water(just like us). This moisture is released as the atmosphere demands, feeding land precipitation cycles. This is a personally observed phenomenon((visible uptake of moisture from the canopy where paddocks end and forest starts), and rainfall in the upper Amazon has had a documented decline since the lower and middle sections were deforested.
    I have long personal experience of the time, effort and resource needed to attempt to rectify devastation through exploitation.
    As I watch what remains of our planets’ forests become smaller and more fragmented, declining and disappearing, and know in gut, heart and mind what this means to overall habitability, face-tics want to explode when when I hear smugly ignorant morons supporting increasing rates of deforestation whilst denying that humans have the ability to effect the climate of the planet.
    You do not even have to have any knowledge of the workings of greenhouse gases to see the ways humans are screwing up the biosphere.

  7. corvus boreus

    Annie B,
    I’d personally recommend going to a local(preferably native) nursery than bloody Bunnings(they’re a bit sketchy on the ethics).
    With the bird-spread ring-ins in your yard, it’s always a very good idea to get a good ident before you share them around, just in case they are environmental nasties.

  8. Annie B

    Corvus …… both comments are spot on. Thank you.

    I cannot abide the cutting down of trees anywhere, not even when we’re given permission !!.

    Many humans are indeed ‘screwing up the biosphere’ ….. but many countries also, are trying to counter-act that. – There will always be the charlatans who go against the grain and continue to destroy …………. a la our stinking, sneaky, vile, repugnant ++++++ ( adjectives ) Prime Monster who continues to live in the dark ages and promote fossil fuels – not to mention trying to lop trees in the Tasmanian wilderness – ” because we need the wood to build residences, not have more forests ” …. or some crap like that he said a while back. As said in my first post – he was REJECTED completely, … ( even by the logging companies at the time ).

    ( An aside ) – – – You would know that the danger of falling trees is not so much in the winter when many think it is, but in the summer when the foliage / tree tops draw water from their own storage, become top heavy – dry out below, weaken and fall.

    The Dandenongs are in fact a rain-forest in the true sense. And I have read ( somewhere ) that they are the closest rain-forest in the world, to suburbia and any CBD, which is Melbourne, here. They are an absolute delight for 9 months of the year ….. the summer months are bloody awful. Not only because of bush fire possibiity, but because those trees ‘sweat’ a HUGE amount of moisture, which makes the area ultra-humid. Being a rain-forest – not surprising. But we can put up with that …. for the sake of the beautiful trees !!!

    The Yarra Ranges Shire Council does NOT permit the indiscriminate cutting down of trees. …. we have to get permission to fell anything, sometimes with inspection first by an arborist, except in the case of a tree that is dangerous to a house, so a distance between house and tree(s) is designated by the Council. Acacia ( Wattle ) is considered to be a pest in this area – so I wouldn’t be potting up any of those little fellas, unless for suburbanites who are not under our strict local laws. Just had the electricity guys through this week, paring off branches close to wires ….. but they act under strict rule and instructions and are very ‘gentle’. .


    Thanks too for your words of advice re potting some plants. Native shrubbery invite heaps of birds, but many do not grow very tall – therefore do not contribute to ‘canopy’. Eucalypts of course do, but it is a long while for them to grow and they can be iffy – in standing upright for their entire lives. I have a wonderful book I refer to for identification, and have sought advice on a few occasions, on leaves I have sent to the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, who obliged. Upwey now has a Shire Council nursery ( does not sell from there ) … where anyone can go to have their plant(s) identified.

    This area should be copied by many in the world, for it’s management, proliferation, and protection of species.

    So – I do try to identify plants as they grow from bird droppings containing seed ( and possum woopsies ), but not always with large % success…….

    There are lot of young eucalypts that spring up through the ground, from the near surface roots of a mature tree. They can be removed and planted, but great care has to be taken with that, as their main tap is to the roots themselves. I have had success with two of those, from several though.

    And yes, Bunnings is for profit – not so much for correct naming or identification / management of plants. Nurseries are the best bet – I agree.

    Again, thank you.


    Sorry this is so long …… I could talk forever about trees. !!! 🙂

  9. Royce Arriso

    Hi Annie B! Live in the same district, do voluntary landcare. Lovely post, just one small, but important correction…..
    “Acacia (Wattle) is considered to be a pest in this area…”
    Well, yes and no. A range of wattles in the Dandies and Yarra Valley are in fact indigenous, so let’s foster their growth where practical. But some Acacias are a real invasive problem. Cape Wattle from WA is widespread. The other main offenders are Sallow, Cedar and Early Black Wattle and of course, Cootamundra. All things of beauty, as are overseas specimens like Holly, Ivy, Montbretia etc. But as the man said about dirt, not dirty of itself, just dirty because in the wrong place. As are our invasive plant pests.
    One more comment, born of decades of experience and hopefully not too patronising. Value any kindred spirits who express an interest, but don’t expect the least understanding from the barely-informed, the worst of whom will consider you a sort of eco-nutcase on a green jihad to extinguish their beloved Agapanthuses, Ivy, Holly etc. Indeed, many folk, especially the elderly, are barely aware of the concept of invasive species and unable–worse still, not curious–to distinguish one bit of green from another. This is the abiding nexus at the heart of Australian land occupancy. Even people fortunate to live in areas of outstanding natural beauty can display a disconnect from the landscape more appropriate to someone storeys up an inner urban high-rise.
    More power to yer green thumb!

  10. Annie B

    @ Royce ……. thanks so much for your great comment.

    I admit to being quite a bit ignorant about Acacias – but I did know the Cootamundra is not welcome. I presumed most wattles ( told to me by a professional tree lopper !!! who cut down a split cootamundra in danger of falling ) are nuisances in the Yarra Valley Shire, and thanks for putting me right about the rest of them.

    Trouble is, I cannot truly identify them – in my wonderful books OR on the Net ( by image ). We have one remaining wattle – might be an early black, or more likely a cedar wattle – fine feathery leaf system. The cockatoos break open the pods to eat the seeds, but they scatter all over the place and propagate that way. Am always pulling them out. As for being an eco-nutcase …… already there Royce – my family think so anyway. 🙂

    Agapanthus ….. I actually like them when they bloom – we have a few patches of them, but reduce their clump size when they get unruly…. strict rules apply to those …… and as you would know, they grow like weeds up here – yet down in FTG – enterprising weekend marketers SELL Agapanthus in pots for $5.00 or more each. Grrrr.

    Because I am a tree lover ( not yet a tree hugger !! ) ……. I enjoy them all – especially our natives, but the English Elm ( sadly attacked by the Dutch Elm beetle – ( the guy behind us spends $300 every 2 – 3 years killing the beetles in THE most magnificent elm ), the English Oak ( which the possums love ) …. and a variety of other English trees …. all get my deepest respect.

    I had a beautiful she-oak, which my husband ‘lopped’ but it is sprouting again. I don’t know where you are in the Dandenongs, but you well could have heard me when I came home and found what he’d done. LOL ….. They do make quite a mess when they shed parts of their foliage ( the needles I think or the wind blows some of the feathery branches off ? ). It was close to the house, so he was permitted to remove it altogether, but thank heavens he didn’t. ….. just gave it one helluva hair cut. !!!

    The montbretia …. although it returns from time to time, and is attractive when in bloom, has gone from our garden now. …. Ivy is banned.

    My chickens are great gardeners – and do not spoil or dig out plants. …. They just scratch and turn over the soil, which does it good, and they powder that dirt to such a find dust, when dust bathing.

    Anyway, many thanks again … and happy gardening.

  11. corvus boreus

    Royce Arriso,
    I applaud your sentiments, voluntary efforts and the information you share.

  12. Royce Arriso

    Thanks Annie B and corvus. Annie, the feathery wattle could be Silver Wattle (A dealbata), but alas I tend to plump for Cape Wattle from WA. Identifying plants indigenous and otherwise is often a long-term process. Example; found invasive species number 62 in the Yarra Valley roadside bushland I’m restoring. (62! What have we done to Australia?!) Thought it looked familiar…finally a council contact recognised it…only bloody Grevillea robusta, wasn’t it? Everywhere in glorious flower right now, but all over the plot like a rash and growing like Jack’s beanstalk.
    Best wishes, Royce Arriso.

  13. Annie B

    @Royce ……

    And here’s me thinking that ALL grevillia are welcome and ok. …. They do attract the wild birds …. but didn’t know there were some species that are suspect to our environment.

    I HAVE MUCH TO LEARN, but have been ‘learning’ for years …… or so it seems to me.

    Have just googled that ….. and the Grevillia Robusta ( Google says ) ……… is a silky oak ? ??? …. which grows very tall ?

    ( being a tree nut, it would probably come under my personal ‘protected’ species – I think I have to get over that calling !!! )

    Your work with native Australian flora is fantastic ….. along with your voluntary land-care. Good on you.

    When you speak of ‘invasive species’ …… are you referring to introduced plants from specific areas ( e.g. England) …. as many of the plants we now love and admire come from places like South Africa and South America — and elsewhere. ….. But perhaps that refers to small garden plants such as e,g, the Tiger Lily – which is Asian in origin.

    How strange that the bulbs ( and flowers – cooked properly ) of lillies can be eaten ????????? ( not by me ) ……. but are fatal to cats. Especially the leaves of them.

    A totally fascinating subject – for many years of study.

    Thank you.

  14. Harquebus

    It doesn’t help when we see lumberjacks being glorified on TV.
    Also, Europe was once completely forested. Mankind’s quest for global deforestation continues unabated.


    Plant lots and lots of trees. Massive scale reforestation will help the climate, rainfall and be a valuable renewable resource for future generations.

  15. Annie B

    @Harquebus ……..

    You are right ….. we should plant lots of trees. If EVERY owner of a property – anywhere, planted just one tree per year, and if even only 50% were successful, we could create – for the future – new canopies. … Especially in the hills, and surrounding – or any, rural areas.

    Some nay-sayers might come back with ‘ oh but what about bush fires’ ……. well, horridly bad as they can be, from the results of bush-fires, comes re-growth ( speaking only of trees / flora ). In January 1997, I fled with my pets and important packed stuff, from a bush fire that threatened where I live in the Dandenongs.

    Not something I will ever forget. I found it very difficult to drive past the blackened areas in the immediate aftermath. …….. but within a very short time, new shoots had evolved – and they are now full grown canopy … which is quite amazing considering it takes such a long time for trees to grow. … Well I thought so anyway. That’s just 17 years …. not long in the greater scheme of things.

    Education is sorely needed, and we all need to learn to ‘think green’.

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