Semeurs de Forêts

by Séverine F.

I got involved with the Semeurs de Forêts through an old friend of mine. She has known me as a tree hugger for a long time, and though she has never hugged a tree, she is involved in trying to find small-scale solutions to the environmental crisis. So two years ago, she was quite excited to announce to me that her neighbors and friends were creating an association whose goal was to plant forests. They were raising funds and getting people to lend money to the association to buy some land. The ownership of the land would then be transferred to the association and sealed by a notary, so that the land could only be owned by an association with a similar goal even if the association itself ever disappeared. Nobody would own the land, but the trees that would grow on it – for forever, if possible! Along with a group of other people, I lent some money to the association. In the Ile-de-France region, land is expensive, but we need to act where we live. I also visited Belgium with the association’s founders to talk to an environmentalist, who taught us how to plant a forest. He does the same kind of projects in his region, and he explained how to choose trees and how to get the right trees for the soil we had. We have now selected about 30 different trees, adapted to the physical properties of the land and the region. Real forests have a great diversity of trees, unlike those planted simply for timber, which consist of a single kind of tree planted in lines, breeding no life.

We are still learning, as we are not botanists; we are a mix of city-dwelling people who want to plant forests. So we study, hold a lot of meetings and discussions, disagree, and sometimes get mud all over! We are acting on a small scale, trying to recreate biodiversity and provide a sanctuary for wildlife. This is also a social experiment, as we try to empower people to act on the scale they are able to and try to cooperate and enable a cooperative social intelligence to emerge and be experienced. The core of the group is about 10 people, but there are many more people who came to help with the actual planting sessions. This summer, members of the group also went to water the saplings. We even bought a cheap, above-ground swimming pool in order to store water, as we saw the shadow of a severe drought coming. We are now installing a big new water tank to be able to store more rainwater. In the end, we helped 97% of the baby trees survive the summer. This is very good, as it was a horrible summer for the forest industry in France. We’re thinking of creating a pond, as water is becoming a big issue.

At the end of fall, we’re going to plant several thousand new saplings and let them rest through the winter. We will need a lot of hands for this. Over the next few weekends, we’re going to prepare the ground for planting, dig holes for the trees, install the new water tank, and store straw bundles. We will need goodwill and strong arms for this, too – who would have thought that straw could be so heavy! Money will therefore go to buying trees, as well as the straw needed to cover the ground to keep it moist and to protect roots from freezing. We try to buy local breeds as much as possible. In addition, children are welcome to help, as this is a great learning experience for them: they are the ones who will see the fully-grown trees when they themselves are old. We all hope that the trees will outlive us!

If you’d like find out how you can help, please write to David, one of the association’s founders who is responsible for practical organization, will inform you of the dates of upcoming activities. (We also collect and sell second-hand books to raise money.) Those who want to be involved in the decision making and planning meet once a month. Our Facebook page is also very active. You can also get in touch just to share your ideas, as we need new ideas to come up with new answers and perspectives!

Trees in the forest cooperate to grow and survive: let’s be like trees!