Be Beuysterous

Beuysterous is my idea for a campaign of artistic actions that will help people and places be resilient (or creatively boisterous) in the face of climate change. It is inspired by three people. First and foremost is the artist Joseph Beuys, who planted 7000 oaks as an artwork. The second is from history: Nelson’s friend, Admiral Collingwood, always carried acorns to seed whenever he walked his dog, Bounce. The third is Wangari Maathai who motivated people to plant over 30 million trees in Africa.

Trees are in the frontline of the climate battle. Warmer temperatures are causing devastating tree diseases and forest fires. However, we desperately need more trees to stabilise the atmosphere, to provide food sources that don’t need oil-based fertilisers or pesticides, to provide habitats for threatened biodiversity and to prevent soil erosion caused by worsening storms, drought or floods. Despite this ongoing battle, too many trees are lost to development projects or neglect.There are some great tree planting and care projects, such as Trees for Cities, the Woodland Trust’s tree planting challenge and Plant for the Planet, but they could benefit from more support and the injection of more creative ideas. Artistic actions might help by giving visibility, meaning and joy to tree planting activities, as well as generating solutions to some problems such as protecting saplings or combatting disease. For example, artist Anne-Marie Culhane devised an ‘Apple Sock’ to catch tree fruit that might otherwise rot.
My idea has five elements:
  • Raise funds for artists to work with these tree charities and in Environment departments of councils, to develop a pool of artistic activities that will get more people planting and caring for trees.
  • Create a digital resource that will promote creative actions for trees. Update: Here’s the start of a new website and there’s a Facebook fan page too.
  • From these artist leaders, generate a tribe of Beuysterous people who know how and where to plant, care for and use trees and who actually use these artistic approaches to involve more people.
  • Hold an annual event to plant trees and showcase the creative actions.
  • Run courses to give people creative skills, confidence and motivation to plant and care for trees, and the life that thrives around trees. (Courses called ‘Minding Nature’).
I’m collecting ideas and inspirations on Pinterest until I have time to write a small book of ideas. Please share your ideas with me, or in general, ideas on how I can get resources to further this.
Some opportunities are coming up to do creative or symbolic things with trees:
  • Plant a Christmas tree instead of buying a chopped one.
  • Celebrate the winter solstice on 21st December by burning a yule log and honouring a special tree.
  • Wassail and mulch some trees on Twelfth Night – the traditional time for orchard visiting
  • Celebrate Imbolc, the day of Bridget, the goddess of fire (hearths), healing and wisdom – go to a wood to prune trees to keep them healthy, then make a fire with the wood and tell stories
  • Give a love letter to a tree on Valentine’s Day
Oh, and, if you love trees please donate to help prevent and mitigate tree diseases

One response to “Be Beuysterous

  1. We also need to envision a different type of forest management, away from the soil degrading, biodiverse poor monoculture plantations of clear-felled conifers, towards permanent, close-to-nature, continuous cover forestry. This we must attend to for our visions for forests to be meaningful, in policy, our education and practice. We can start small or transform large plantations and the knowledge is well developed across eupore where the idea of permanent forests is more accepted and valued.

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