Speaker: Diana Beresford-Kroeger

The Call of the Trees

“Climate change is happening. What can we do about it? It will start with a shovel and an acorn, but we might just change the world.”

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a world-recognized botanist, medical biochemist and author (and now filmmaker). She is known for her extraordinary ability to bring an understanding and appreciation of the scientific complexities of nature to the general public. "Diana Beresford-Kroeger is one of the rare individuals who can accomplish this outwardly simple but inwardly complex and difficult translation from the non-human to human realms," the renowned E.O. Wilson wrote in the forward to one of her books.

“If you speak for the trees, you speak for all of nature,” says Beresford-Kroeger, one of the world's leading experts on trees who is known to have the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist. She has studied the environmental, medicinal, nutritional, and even spiritual aspects of trees, has written about them in leading books, and on her property she maintains gardens that burst with flora and are open often to the public.

Her work uniquely combines western scientific knowledge and the traditional concepts of the ancient world.  From a very young age, she understood that she was the last voice to bring Celtic knowledge to the New World. Orphaned at age 11 in Ireland, she lived with a succession of Gaelic-speaking elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, who took her under their wing. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality.

Already a precociously gifted scholar, Diana found that her grounding in the ancient ways led her to fresh scientific concepts. Out of that huge and holistic vision have come the observations that put her at the forefront of her field: the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate.

Told she was the last child of ancient Ireland and to one day bring this knowledge to a troubled future, Beresford-Kroeger has done exactly that.  She has published over 200 articles in magazines, journals and newspapers internationally. She is the author of several books including The Sweetness of a Simple Life (2015), The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can Save Us (2010), Arboretum Borealis: A Lifeline of the Planet (2010), and A Garden for Life: The Natural Approach to Designing, Planting, and Maintaining a North Temperate Garden (2004). She has served as a scientific advisor to organizations including the Irish Woodland League, Ecology Ottawa, Hidden Harvest of Ottawa, Canadian Organic Growers, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive and the Acadian Forest Research Centre and others. She has lectured widely across North America and Europe.

In her latest book, To Speak for the Trees: My Life's Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest, Beresford-Kroeger asserts that “if we can understand the intricate ways in which the health and welfare of every living creature is connected to the global forest, and strengthen those connections, we will still have time to mend the self-destructive ways that are leading to drastic fires, droughts and floods.”

Now she aims to spread her knowledge through feature-length films being made of her work.  In her documentary, Call of the Forest: To Speak with the Trees, Beresford-Kroeger takes viewers on a journey to the most beautiful forests of the northern hemisphere. From the sacred sugi and cedar forests of Japan, the ancient Raheen Wood of Ireland, the walnut and redwood trees of America, to the great boreal forest of Canada, Beresford-Kroeger tells us the amazing stories behind the history and legacy of these ancient forests while also explaining the science of trees and the irreplaceable roles they play in protecting and feeding the planet.

Annie Proulx, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award­-winning author, says “Call of the Forest is a film of rare significance. It draws the viewer into the green world that sustains life on this planet at a crucial ecological point, and is an introduction to the work of Diana Beresford-Kroeger, one of the least known but most important people on the planet.”

Beresford-Kroeger is also at the heart of an upcoming three-part series airing on PBS called The Truth about Trees. Currently she is advocating on behalf of an ambitious global "bioplan" encouraging ordinary people to develop a new relationship with nature and join together to restore the global forest.

Beresford-Kroeger understood the importance of trees as a botany student in Ireland and grew her own research garden and arboretum after emigrating from Ireland to Canada. This experience helped her realize that the scientific community lacks the ability to present science to the public; it was to address the urgent needs of nature in its destruction that she began her career in writing, lecturing and broadcasting. 
She worked as a research scientist at the University of Ottawa and the Canadian Department of Agriculture Electron Microscopy Centre. She was appointed a WINGS WorldQuest fellow and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, where she was named one of 25 women explorers of Canada.
“What is especially impressive is her unique blend of scientific rigour and poetic eloquence. Indeed, she combines both in a very rare gift: an extraordinary ability to understand the scientific complexities of nature, but also to bring this knowledge and appreciation to the general public,” said Matthias Neufang, dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs at Carleton College, where she received an honorary degree for her work.

Beresford-Kroeger is an O’Donoghue, a very ancient family in Ireland who were the Kings of Munster, a southern county in Ireland. She is the last child of this family. This family was the teachers of the kings of Ireland, even before the birth of Christ. Her immediate family wiped out when she was eleven years old, and as an orphan, she was raised in Southern Ireland by a bachelor uncle who was a noted athlete, chemist, scholar and bibliophile. He nurtured her quest for knowledge and encouraged her to read and discuss everything from Irish poetry, world religions and philosophy to physics and quantum mechanics. She attended private schools in Ireland and England, and completed her earned her bachelor’s of science honors in botany and medicinal biochemistry at University College Cork (UCC), graduating first in her year in 1963. She then completed a master of science degree at UCC in 1965.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger's startling insights into the hidden life of trees have already sparked a quiet revolution in how we understand our relationship to forests. She shows us how forests can not only heal us but save the planet. She tells us why trees matter, and why trees are a viable, achievable solution to climate change. Diana eloquently points to us that if we can understand the intricate ways in which the health and welfare of every living creature is connected to the global forest, and strengthen those connections, we will still have time to mend the self-destructive ways that are leading to drastic fires, droughts and floods.

Join us in conversation with this ground-breaking and healing scientist and poet!

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