In the struggle to re-establish a balance in Nature, so devastatingly disrupted through the industrial commercial activities of humanity over the last two hundred years, the call for re-forestation has been vaunted long and loud in the COP26 conference. A belated but very welcome call.

But it is not enough to plant trees. In the words of one Native American teacher ‘when you destroy a tree you destroy an entire community that has gathered around it, but when you plant a tree, you just plant a tree.’ You do not re-establish the ecological family that was drawn to the tree removed. So much more so with a forest.

For the ‘forest to return’, using the words of Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it is necessary to allow the plants to return that form the undergrowth and ensure the healthy growth of the trees themselves. The damage done to the soil from the use of heavy plant machinery – I never understood why it was called ‘plant’ there are few things more detrimental to the vegetable kingdom than the machines invented by humanity – prevents the return of soft and subtle root systems that the plants, the trees themselves, as well as the undergrowth, depend upon. Rather than dragging hundreds of saplings from a place of germination into an area for reforestation using great trucks, let the occupation employ many people and light wagons to transfer the plants. Once humanity sang in the fields and danced in its tea breaks in celebration of the work done together – we are a communal species, as is all life. Let us return to those days. So much more productive than employing a few to man machines while many stand idle in dole queues begging for the wherewithal to feed the family and pay the rent.

Let us follow Nature’s guidance in all of this and in attempting to repair the damage we have done let us extend the forests, not attempt to recreate them. Allow the little plants and all the life they support to return as well. Even before you plant the first tree.

Author: Keith Armstrong

Dance teacher, writer, film-maker, educationalist, enthusiast.