Many people have heard of David Suzuki, David Attenborough, or Greta Thunberg. Richard St. Barbe Baker was the first global conservationist and humanitarian. This is our way to remember his international legacy. International Online Premiere: The Legacy of Saskatoon’s Secret Forest Saturday November 6, 2021 at 1:00 pm CST (UTC-6)
What was the secret of Richard St. Barbe Baker?
Well, he formed the Men of the Trees from the very first Dance of the Trees July 22, 1922, and not this organisation is known as the International Tree Foundation. This part is known, and not a secret.
We know that he encouraged all who joined the International Tree Foundation – who were called [from the Kikuyu of Africa] the Watu Wa Miti or forest guides to make a promise. The forest scouts, all took a solemn oath to “promise to plantten trees a year, take care of trees everywhere, and do one good deed every day!“
We know that he knew Wangaari Mathai, nobel prize laureate, and that they spoke often about the Sahara Desert reclamation. Baker took a trip in the Sahara desert, and realized that it once was a lush verdant forest. So just as in the final scene of the Planet of the Apes, it was ARRRGGGHHH! what has happened to the earth? The difference is the Planet of the Apes was a futuristic movie scenario and the Sahara Desert is a testament of the past and present.
Tree planting, nay, not just tree planting but forest planting was an imperative message from Richard St. Barbe Baker as he travelled the globe. This is not a secret, and an amazing feat of accomplishing the planting of billions and trillions of trees worldwide.
What many people don’t realize that his mission, his imperative, his modus operandi was that everyone should develop a “tree sense.” This “tree sense” is what shouldn’t be Richard St. Barbe Baker’s secret. Just as he travelled the world speaking and writing books about developing a “tree sense” so should we all today, in this era.
So, to honour the Legacy of Richard St. Barbe Baker, can you today, foster your own “tree sense?”
“I picture village communities of the future living in valleys protected by sheltering trees on the high ground. They will have fruit and nut orchards and live free from disease and enjoy leisure, liberty and justice for all, living with a sense of their one-ness with the earth and with all living things.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker
“As Article 2 of the UN charter obligates member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat or the use of force in their relations, the General Assembly reaffirmed those obligations in its resolution 71/275.~United Nations
World Peace; International Peace
After graduating with a Diploma in Forestry from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1920 Richard St. Barbe Baker’s was posted by the Colonial Office to Kenya, Africa to serve as Assistant Conservator of Forests. In that particular position, St. Barbe was to further the economic advantage of the colony in the knowledge of which wood may be sold in the British Market, and to ensure a good stock of wood into the future. However, on arriving in Kenya, and assessing the situation, St. Barbe could foresee the dire effects of clear cutting the forests, and the ensuing desert like conditions forming.
“Trees worked for millions of years to make it possible for man to come on this planet. Yet man, who owns his presence on this Earth to trees, has been cutting, burning, greedily and recklessly. He has turned the forest into desert, until today we are faced not only with a timber famine, but with a food famine.” ~Richard St. Barbe Baker
“Reports had arrived” to the ears of Richard St. Barbe Baker, “of what was happening to the north where the tribes had been caught in a wedge of vanishing forest with hundreds of miles of desert in front of them and desert closing in behind them. Chiefs had forbidden marriage and women refused to bear children for they were driven before the oncoming desert and could already see their end in sight.”
“To be in a better position to help them I studied their language, their folklore and tribal customs, and was initiated into their secret society, an ancient institution which safeguarded the history of the past which was handed down by word of mouth through its members.
Soon I came to understand and love these people and wanted to be of service to them. They called me “Bwana M‘Kubwa,” meaning “Big Master,” but I said, “I am your M‘tumwe” (slave).” Richard St. Barbe Baker
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Forest
Photo of Richard St. Barbe Baker Courtesy: University of Saskatchewan, University Archives & Special Collections, Richard St. Barbe Baker fonds, MG 71
Photo of Richard St. Barbe Baker
Courtesy: University of Saskatchewan,
University Archives & Special Collections
Introduction of an Initiation Ceremony, at which a large dance was held, and the first Forest Guides were selected. These, the “Watu wa Miti,” did solemnly vow; “I promise before N’gai to do at least one good deed each day, to plant 10 trees a year, and take care of trees everywhere.” Following this ceremony they are given a password, which interpreted means “We are one.”
Watu Wa Miti translates to Men of the Trees
The good deed of the day part of the oath was not immediately understood, and though it was admirable that a Forest Nursery was started, Richard St. Barbe Baker encouraged the new Forest Guides to search their hearts for guidance, and find other good deeds to do. This led to acts of kindness saving lives and property, and grew to encompass an “esprit de corps” and hospitality between tribes working peacefully together. Inter-tribal warfare was set aside, no longer was their desperation, but the development of home, life, and opportunity in brotherhood.
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“—the UNDERSTANDING—who does not know that, as it is the most elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more constant delight than any of the other. Its searches after truth are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes in its progress towards Knowledge makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the best too, for the time at least, speaks John Locke,
“For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by its own sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less regret for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. Thus he who has raised himself above the alms-basket, and, not content to live lazily on scraps of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on work, to find and follow truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the hunter’s satisfaction; every moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with some delight; and he will have reason to think his time not ill spent, even when he cannot much boast of any great acquisition.”
“We believe in the innate intelligence of the villagers, the country men and the workers, that they should be allowed to manage their own affairs. We believe they will put into their work not merely their hands and their feet, but their brains and their hearts. Each can experience the transcendental joy of creation, and can earn immortality and bestow immortality.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker The New Earth Charter
The resolution [71/275] also underlined that some states’ national policies of neutrality can contribute to the strengthening of international peace and security and play an important role in developing mutually beneficial relations among countries of the world.” ~United Nations
David Hume explains, “But could such dogmatical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human understanding, even in its most perfect state, and when most accurate and cautious in its determinations; such a reflection would naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve, and diminish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice against antagonists.”
“The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity toward other nations.”~George Washington.
But before all things, a means must be devised for improving the understanding and purifying it,” Baruch Spinoza elaborates, “as far as may be at the outset, so that it may apprehend things without error, and in the best possible way.
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Multis e gentibus vires (From Many Peoples Strength)
The trees and vegetation, which cover the land surface of the Earth and delight the eye, are performing vital tasks incumbent upon the vegetable world in nature. Its presence is essential to earth as an organism. It is the first condition of all life; it is the “Skin” of the earth, for without it there can be no water and, therefore, no life. ~Richard St. Barbe Baker
“When the trees go, the rain goes, the climate deteriorates, the water table sinks, the land erodes and desert conditions soon appear”.~Richard St. Barbe Baker