Discussion prompts that I will be using to teach about Trees this week at Permaculture Sydney Institute.
If you would like to start a conversion with a friend or class, you can use these keywords. I'll printing them out and cutting the table up into slips of paper to draw from a hat.
The person who can talk about the topic gets a point and whoever has already spoken about the topic they get that one as a bonus point. It doesn't have to be a competition, just engaging.
and here is a post coming out next week.
What Does a Tree Do All Day?One tree performs many functions
Every day a tree goes to work. It flexes and grows, repairs and renews. It draws nutrients to the top, distributes water to the leaves, and when the season is right, it flowers and fruits. Lucky for humanity, the fruit is just the cherry on top. Let's celebrate how forests serve to keep humanity happy.
Undercover, the roots help collect nutrients, keep a grip on soil and rocks, search for new territory, negotiate pathways, and often exchange benefits with other roots and fungi. The roots even whisper to other like-minded tree roots.
Up above, the treetops are busy attracting pollinators and friendly fertilisers (birds and mammals), deflecting damaging wind, keeping warm, and sheltering their young saplings. Impressively, a tree can regulate the temperature around itself by regulating the moisture content in its trunk. This is an additional feat on top of the great thermal mass quality of wood.
A tree is a busy organism but it is never alone. Every tree belongs to a community of forest organisms. Even in death, the tree decomposes and recomposes itself through its relationship with forest organisms.
Oblivious of their importance to humanity, the tree absorbs CO2 and releases life-giving Oxygen. But surprisingly, recent research shows that many trees, worldwide have hit their limit and are now shouting a warning.
There are some highly specialised. ‘Super-trees‘ powers ranged from diesel nuts, leaves that can burn whilst wet, abundant fruit, or communities of creatures. Occasionally a tree can be big enough to shelter a family, provide timber that never rots, live for thousands of years, support kilometers of fungi underground, or hold steep slopes of mighty mountains. Many trees communicate for miles underground.
There are at least 10 types of trees that humanity depends upon. The yield is potentially limitless due to the capacity for the exponential growth of a forest. They provide fuel, food, oils, forage, structural, conservation, carbon sequestration, soil management, animal barriers, and fungal & microbial habitat.
Energy from treesChinese Kang uses small windfall twigs to cook food and heat the bed
Fuel from trees comes in many forms. You can choose from solid fuel (wood) and flammable leaves, bark, oil and ‘diesel’ nuts. Solid fuel comes from windfalls (cones from nut pines, fallen wood) or harvest cuts (thinning, or felling). David Holmgren writes that solid fuels are the most useful energy resource globally because: we can plan for their harvest, they are easy to cut, require little training to use, convert easily to energy, hard to steal or vandalise, and renew themselves. Some timber ie. Eucalyptus leaves will even burn wet. Diesel and Petroleum treesburn like candles.
The Brazilian tropical rainforest tree Copaifera langsdorffii commonly known as Capaiba (Tupi Indian word cupa-yba), a legume, is called the diesel tree. The tree is tapped sustainably like maple syrup. More powerful n-Heptane is distilled from the oil of Pittosporum resiniferum.
Another form of fuel is BioGas from coppiced tree material via composting for methane collection.
Food and Alcohol on Tap
More than 80% of the world’s food species came from the rainforest. The permaculture food forest diversifies the yeild. It usually mixes fruit and nut trees. Because, unlike the commercial orchard, the permaculture fruits do not all have to ripen at once to go to market. In fact, it is handy to have a longer period of harvest. This extend the season and avoid gluts. In addition, the food forest trees have a variety of roles. Strong food trees support vine crops. Whereas short-lived trees act as nurse young canopy trees. Tall evergreens huddle as wind-breaks. While a deciduous pear gently shades the balcony.
Oils from Forests
There is a myriad of herbal, medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic oils from trees. Most famously Frankincense and Myrrh. Common oils today include Pine, Eucalyptus, Olive, Teatree, and Neem.
Out on the Forest Farm
Forests for animal forage and fodder are all but forgotten by modern farming. Many varieties excellent, nutritious fodder for animals. Forming living fences, hedges, they shelter as well as feed farm animals. In return, the cattle and sheep fertilise the fodder trees. In addition, forest shrubbery and leaf litter filter any excess nitrogen. Forage Examples include: Oak, Poplar, Acacia aneura (Mulga), Albizia Julibrissa (Leguminous, deciduous, fast growing, regenerates) and Dodnaea viscosa (Hop bush),
Animal barrier systems such as hedges are stronger, longer-lasting, and more durable than fences. Hedges might look chaotic, but the borders can be trimmed. The chaos can have boundaries. Hedges permit small creatures to pass underneath and larger animals/people and cars to stay out.
Many trees were big enough to shelter a traveller. Even Plato wrote about trees too big to put his arms around. Good old fashioned lumber (wood for building) is still in business. Valued attributes include flexibility, lightweight, thermal mass and pliability. Traditional buildings in Japan use wood to build earthquake-safe housing. Wood has more to offer. Recently, an 18 storey Skyscraper was built out of engineered wood in Norway.
Big Network, Big Potential
There are kilometers of fungi in just a cup of soil. These Fungi & Microbe powerhouses can convert sugars into energy sources more readily than machines. Paul Stamets shows how mushrooms can save the world.
Indirect Benefits To Humanity
Conservation/Wildlife Habitat The preservation of habitat makes good economic sense as much as an ethical sense. If nothing more, we can keep healthy forests as a bank of diverse genetic material because most of it we have not yet recognised it’s full value to us. Machines might be able to create clean air, water, soil, and find nutrients but our prosperity still depends upon nature's bank of genetic diversity.
Carbon Sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Long living trees are excellent guardians of carbon. Many trees live thousands of years (including olives) however, clonal colonies of trees have the potential to be immortal. Pando, an 80,000-year-old colony of Quaking Aspen, is the oldest known clonal tree.
Forests Build Their Own World
Forests create and protect soil. Trees will halt erosion by holding banks of steep slopes and trapping centuries of organic matter. They even create their own rain by trapping moisture with the leaves seed the clouds by releasing fungi and other particles. Best of all, forests can create a beneficial micro-climate.
Energise Your Future
Last century, humans used wood to make steam, to turn pistons that turned wheels on tracks to move people from station to station. Before that, we would grow grain to feed to horses that pulled the wagons of cut trees we used to heat our homes and cook food. These technologies still work, that in the future the technologies will be cleaner and more efficient.
Today, we use a lot of electricity. one of the biggest challenges for the conversion to natural energy use is finding a form that is compatible with the system we already have. Nicole Foss talks about our limitations due to the current dependence on particular forms of energy. At the moment, mankind is dependent on either electricity from an aging grid network and on liquid fuel or gas for transport. Biogas and other energy transition technologies allow us to convert existing equipment such as gas cookers and tractors.
Looking ahead, transition technologies will connect us more easily with the type of energy that nature offers.
Plant Now. Enjoy in 2050.
Forests are facing three big threats. The first threat comes land clearing, the second from global warming and thirdly, increasing public fear of fire.
Making space for nature begins with making space for trees. Understanding the different products and services that forests offer and using trees to fit well with the urban space will create healthier cities. "Traditionally human settlement has set about to conquer nature and exclude other species. It is time to realise that part of our ecological happiness comes from other species." Evolutionary biologist Prof Menno Schilthuizen
What Can One Do?
People have the power to increase urban forests because ownership of most of the open spaces is actually in private hands. We learn from nature by reconnecting, getting involved in citizen nature projects, and building the ability to observe. Ultimately, we begin to partner with nature.
Do we need a reason to reforest the earth? Perhaps we should do it simply because we can.
Permaculture mimics nature. By observing how nature faces challenges, we design for smarter and efficient uses of her resources.