Forest & Bird’s annual Be With a Tree celebration this year focuses on the intangible benefits of trees to people.
Be With a Tree 2020, which runs from 5-14 June, aims to inspire a love of nature that changes people’s lives as well as the face of the planet. The celebration, run by Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC), also gives children and adults a chance to vote for the tree they love the most.
“Many people realised during the lockdown how vital nature is for wellbeing,” says Forest & Bird’s KCC manager Sarah Satterthwaite.
“That period when people were cut off from their normal social support systems highlighted that nature can be this incredible source of fresh energy, or peace or happiness in people’s lives.
“In fact there’s an abundance of scientific research demonstrating the astonishing benefits trees have for people’s health and mental wellbeing – from increasing immunity, speeding healing or experiencing a sense of awe to reducing anxiety, fatigue or violence."
“There’s a mutual dependence – we need trees and trees need us to plant and protect them."
Arbor Day falls on June 5, the first day of the Be With a Tree celebration. Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club is running a series of events, alongside partner organisations Enviroschools Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui, Wellington City Council, The New Zealand Arboricultural Association and Garden to Table.
Virtual events include a tree quiz session, 'Ask an Arborist', a cook along event, and wellbeing events amongst the trees. Anyone can vote for their favourite tree on the KCC website from 5 June.
The KCC website also includes Be With a Tree activity sheets which invite children to think about ways trees bring people together, create family memories, connect to our culture and history, are beautiful to look at and fun to play in.
“We’ve found in the first two years of Be with a Tree that the tangible benefits of trees are well understood. People know trees provide food and homes for native birds, that they help slow climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, and that trees stabilise soils and help to reduce erosion," says Sarah.
“This year, we want to learn about trees’ deeper emotional roots – when people make heartfelt connections with trees, they are more likely to plant and protect them.”