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REFORESTATION AND TREE HUGGING, WHY TREES MATTER

REFORESTATION AND TREE HUGGING, WHY TREES MATTER

WHY DO WE LOVE TREES? 

Well, it's a natural human phenomena. The concept of a "Tree Of Life" is a widespread theme across many of the world's mythologies, often related to the concept of a sacred tree, it has both philosophical and religious traditions. 

The ancient symbol of the Tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, union and fertility and are seen as powerful symbols of growth and resurrection. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the "Tree of Knowledge," connects heaven and the underworld. The "Tree Of Life," connects all forms of creation. Many scholars think the trees portrayed in various religions and philosophies are the same tree. The bond and affection to trees is so deep in Celtic traditions, that Celts believed that the actual trees were their ancestors and gatekeepers to the Celtic Otherworld. As such, the Tree Of Life in Celtic Culture is sacred. The expression, "Tree Of Life," was even used by Charles Darwin, as a metaphor for the phylogenetic tree of common descent, in the evolutionary sense. The “Mother Tree,” refers the biggest, oldest trees in the forest, providing incredible biodiversity. They are the glue that holds the forest togetherThrough their huge photosynthetic capacity, they provide food for the whole soil web of life.

Humanity has embraced the symbolism of the majestic Tree, from its earliest recorded histories... in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Ancient Egypt and Persia, Paganism and Norse Mythology, to China and beyond. It has literally been a part of every culture on earth. They are beautiful, majestic and linked to humans.  

WHY EXACTLY ARE TREES IMPORTANT?

Trees are vital for the air we breathe. As the biggest plants on the planet, they absorb and store carbon, provide oxygen, and combat the effects of climate change. Trees also stabilize and regenerate the soil, and are habitat the world's wildlife. The more trees in the world, the better! 

Time spent amongst trees has been scientifically proven to have many psychosocial, physical and emotional benefits for human beings. People not only appreciate what they have in life more, but seem to be calmer and have a greater sense of connection to themselves, the land and each other. A few of these things that have been confirmed through science and are known as Attention Restoration Theory and Forest Bathing.

Attention Restoration Theory was developed by the Psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. Their theory states that time spent in nature helps to improve or restore our attention. So simply being among the trees can help make you a calmer and more mindful person.

Additionally, there is a practice from Japan called Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing has been studied a lot over the last couple of decades and has shown that time spent in nature helps boost your mood and your immune system. How do they do this? They found that many of the natural aromas and terpenes trees release can influence our mood and boost our immune system when we breathe them in. Now, many people are using essential oils from trees as an easy, natural remedy to boost mood and immune functioning. So not only do trees actually create the air we need to breathe, but they fill it full of feel good and health improving chemicals.

They have even found that having a view of trees and nature through a window will improve mood. Hugging a tree increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for feeling calm and emotional bonding. When hugging a tree, the hormones serotonin and dopamine make you feel happier. It definitely seems like trees love and care for us. What is a better way to show our love for them, than by giving them a hug and making sure they continue to exist through protection and reforestation? Before we get to reforestation, let's look at why deforestation occurs.

 

WHAT IS DEFORESTATION AND WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

 

Deforestation is the removal or destruction of large areas of forest. Deforestation happens for many reasons, such as illegal logging, ranching and agriculture, natural disasters, like forest fires and flooding, urbanization and mining. Unfortunately, this is a practice that is only increasing with time. Not only does deforestation lead to the destruction of the ecosystem, but it also leads to the extinction of countless species and increases climate change; usually in the pursuit of capitalism. Over the last century, the forest cover around the globe has been significantly compromised, leaving the green cover down to an all-time low of about 30 percent. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year. What makes deforestation alarming, is the immediate and long term effects it is bound to inflict, if continued at the current pace. The obvious solution to stop deforestation, is to simply stop cutting down trees, but we can take this one step further and actually plant new trees, which is called reforestation.

REFORESTATION AND TREESISTERS

Here at Lotus Tribe, we try our very best to provide you, the consumer, with the most comfortable fitting, affordable, ethical and natural fiber yoga clothing to wear. We are also committed to help heal the environment. Growing up in the heart of the Redwood forests of Northern California, turned us into tree huggers at a young age. Awed and inspired by these beautiful beings, we have been in a life long love affair with Trees. 

That's why, when we decided that we wanted to practice philanthropic entrepreneurship, our first choice was to join Tree Sisters. Picking the right NGO to partner with, is a formidable decision and one we did not take lightly.  TreeSisters consistently supports the earth, its inhabitants (both human and non human) and works to do so within the role of caretaker.

FOR EVERY ITEM PURCHASED FROM LOTUS TRIBE CLOTHING, WE PLANT A TREE IN YOUR NAME. 

 

SO FAR, LOTUS TRIBE HAS PLANTED 15,000 TREES!

This amazing organization supports feminine based leadership through global tree planting initiatives, focusing on reforestation, community, indigenous wisdom, and  fostering global partnerships. Run by and for women around the world, with an emphasis on the equatorial regions, they provide income and purpose to the local women they work with. 

TreeSisters is a UK registered social change and reforestation charity, that places tropical forest restoration into everyone’s hands. Through individuals and businesses that give back to Nature every month, TreeSisters has so far (as of December 2021) funded the planting of over 20 million trees, across 12 locations in Brazil, Borneo, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, Nepal and West Papua. They want to rapidly accelerate tropical reforestation by inspiring and channeling women's Nature Based Feminine Leadership into global action. They encourage feminine leadership by providing resources, experiences and communities that inspire personal and collective action on behalf of the trees. Their approach is the balance of inner and outer, spiritual and practical, behavioral and ecological pathways towards that shift. This is a process of discovering how to engage, nourish, inspire and activate women into their unique gifts and generosity on behalf of themselves, each other and the forests that we love and need.

TreeSisters funds a diverse portfolio of tropical reforestation projects that are ethical, community-led, expand natural forest cover and aim to avoid further deforestation. TreeSisters projects support local communities and improve livelihoods, protect critically endangered species, and focus on gender parity and the participation of women. They are a direct and measurable way to restore the web of life and mitigate climate change.  Actively encouraging the cultural shift required to grow from a consumer to a restorative culture is one of their main goals that we also embrace. 

We envision a world where it is normal for everyone to protect and restore both themselves and the world.     

Tropical forests are more than 'the lungs' of our world- they are the beating heart of the hydrological cycle. As weather stabilizers, rain creators and cleansers, they are intimately tied to our health and our food. They are ecological healers, crucial for biodiversity and major carbon sinks that absorb excess atmospheric carbon that otherwise acidifies our oceans. We cannot live without them. We are losing them at staggering rates. Destruction needs to stop and restoration needs to become the new norm.

At TreeSisters, the wisdom held by indigenous peoples is deeply valued and we take a stand to protect the vital role they play in steering humanity back into the right relationship with Nature. We work hard to ensure that our reforestation projects involve their leadership, so that the real needs of local communities on the ground are met. TreeSisters partners with other charitable organizations that are already working in some areas, such as The Eden Reforestation Project, Project Green Hands, We Forest, and Trees Of Life.

SUPPORTING LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND SUSTAINABLE ECOSYSTEMS

A key element to always keep in mind, is that our reforestation projects occur in rural areas of developing countries. Communities that live in these areas are heavily dependent on surrounding trees and forests for their livelihoods. The effects of these programs reaches farther than forests and into the very heart of life. 

In the tropics, people depend on trees to survive. Primary uses for timber products include fuelwood for cooking, building houses, making charcoal, fencing and poles. Local use of the forests by these communities have a significant impact: 30-40% of deforestation is due to local/subsistence agriculture.

In order to protect and respect local communities that rely on timber and wood where we plant, it is impossible to impose strict and permanent protection of all the trees we fund. Imposing such protections would simply displace timber harvesting activities onto nearby forests; forests that could be carbon-rich, old growth and biodiverse. Local communities would continue to encroach on other nearby habitats by practicing slash-and-burn or swidden agriculture. 

In order to protect high value forests from these potential impacts, it is important to respect people’s rights to access the forest. Taking this into account, that 20-30% of the trees that we fund are for livelihood purposes, for the communities’ own consumption. They are also for revenue generation, from the sale of forest products, such as charcoal, honey, wild fruits and firewood, timber and many other non-timber forest products. By providing livelihood trees, we are also protecting nearby remnant and old growth forests. It is imperative to support existing populations, working within their cultural traditions, rather than trying to impose western ideology. 

Madagascar is a nation with over 200,000 species of plants and animals that do not exist anywhere else in the world. Our partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects works with local community associations to restore vital, exclusive forest ecosystems that are habitat for six species of endangered lemurs. The project employs impoverished villagers to grow, plant and protect dry, deciduous tree species to maturity. The project is being implemented on government owned land with the aim of turning it into gazetted land for conservation, educational and eco-tourism purposes. There is also funding for mangrove forest regeneration, to help these communities rebuild their coastal ecology. This provides nurseries for vitally dwindling fish stocks, stabilizing soil and providing buffering for rising sea levels and storms. The social and ecological benefits and beauty of this project are truly amazing.

Kenya has one of the lowest levels of green cover in Africa, at just 7%, which makes water scarcity a national problem. TreeSisters is supporting the International Tree Foundation's 20 Million Tree Campaign, to work with farmers, women and school children to reforest the degraded lands which were once part of Mt. Kenya's forest ring and connected the Lower Imenti Forest. The aim is to restore critical water catchment for Kenya's people, delivering an estimated 40% of the country's water needs.

In Brazil, donations are helping us support a reforestation project, developed by an indigenous leader from the Ashaninka people, who live deep in the Amazonian forest basin, on the border of Peru. This is an area with some of the highest biodiversity levels on the planet. The Yorenka and Ashaninka communities there are growing ‘forest gardens’ based on their millennia-old philosophies of life and wisdom of forest management systems. The project aims to create a forest garden of 10 million native fruit trees over 10 years. It will provide sustainable and nutritious food for over 1,000 indigenous people and non-indigenous locals living in Marechal Thaumaturgo, as well as revenues for the welfare of the indigenous community. The project also seeks to change the way people view the native trees and increase awareness about the value of the Amazon forest, by involving non-indigenous locals, as well as visitors from other parts of Brazil and foreigners. It is setting an example of healing the environment with reforestation and agroforestry systems.

In Borneo, Indonesia the new planting project will be reforesting over 50 hectares (123.5 acres) of pristine swamp forests of the Gunung Palung National Park. The park is home to a nearly complete inventory of all of Borneo's fauna including many rare, protected and endemic species, as well as the region's main source of drinking water. It is critical habitat for approximately 2,500 orangutans (of the 54,000 remaining in Borneo). 

In Cameroon, the tree planting project supports the urgent restoration of the Lebialem Highlands forests, home to high endemism and endangered species, such as the most critically endangered of all African primates, the cross river gorilla, with just 300 remaining in the wild. 

In Nepal, at the foothills of the Himalayas, the Eden Reforestation Projects provide local villagers employment to grow, plant and guard native trees to maturity on their own land. The villagers have started to see the return of elephants and snakes to their local environment and recognize the importance of their presence.

WHAT IS THE REFORESTATION STRATEGY?

We plant trees to restore ecosystems and livelihoods whilst increasing protection against the extremes of climate change in multiple regions of the tropical forest belt. We do this in ways that recreate and restore natural forest ecosystems using indigenous species, fostering local knowledge and skills, and promoting women's participation. We strive to do it intelligently, appropriately, respectfully and successfully.

Forests play a vital role in the hydrological cycles of our world, sequester the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving climate change and provide the most biodiverse regions on earth. When trees are removed, vibrant ecosystems are often over farmed, eroded and rendered infertile, in a cascade effect that is mirrored with social decline, grinding poverty and climate extremes.
Reforestation can rapidly reverse these trends, stabilizing and nourishing the soils, restoring watersheds, revitalizing dry springs and providing good quality water to large populations living downstream.

We are focusing on four primary environmental goals:

1. Protection and expansion of Intact Forest Landscapes.
2. Restoration and protection of watersheds.
3. Controlling soil erosion (as extreme weather and deforestation cause run off).
4. Restoring topsoil and land fertility.

And two primary socio-economic goals:

1. Improving community livelihoods and forest interdependence.
2. Fostering women's participation, empowerment and incomes.

ONGOING CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Our reforestation partners, ensure the good maintenance of the funded trees, from two years, up to 10 years after planting, depending on the project. In their experience, this is the period necessary to ensure the trees will continue to grow well on their own.

This maintenance is mostly about controlling weeds and creating firebreaks. A technique called "singling" is used in Madagascar and NepalIt consists of converting a dense group of bushes or trees into taller trees, by only letting one stem grow into a trunk - the purpose being to swiftly create a canopy and shade for other species to thrive under.

Maintenance also requires the provision of advice and assistance to the communities and individuals involved. Our reforestation partner in India visits the tree seedlings or saplings that were delivered to the farmers for two years, to troubleshoot and provide technical advice. This is necessary to ensure that the trees become self-sustainable, and that farmers are fully proficient at cultivating trees on their farms.

All trees assisted to naturally regenerate in the forest restoration project in Brazil, receive maintenance and monitoring for 5 years after the site opens for regeneration. This includes isolating and protecting the area with fences and firebreaks, planting the fewest trees necessary to shade out weeds, and controlling invasive African grass around the trees for the first two years.

Operating in new locations in Mozambique and in West Papua, Eden Reforestation Projects also monitors the annual survival rates of the tree seedlings at permanent monitoring plots within the planting sites for 10 years. These permanent plots are for long term monitoring of detailed changes in forest dynamics. Eden may also decide to enhance and adapt their reforestation practice depending on monitoring results.

CONCLUSION

Humanity has always coexisted with the trees. They create the air we breathe and improve our mood and well being. They also help mitigate climate change and provide many of our needs, from food and shelter, to cosmetics and medicine. As caretakers of the planet, it is each of our responsibilities to tread lightly and give back in any way possible. Radical reforestation of the Earth is our goal. Lotus Tribe partners with TreeSisters because it is a wonderful organization, that helps empower women leadership, whilst reforesting the world. They empower indigenous communities and provide ongoing support to create jobs, save old growth forests, increase habitat and generally make the planet a better, healthier place for us all. With your help, we will continue to give back to Mother Earth and help plant another 15,000 trees. Do yourself a favor and go hug a tree today!

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