World Medicine and the Chinese Medicine Forestry Trust

A Guest Blog by Peter Deadman, Director of the Chinese Medicine Forestry Trust, with an Introduction by Emma Vaughan on behalf of the Trustees of World Medicine:

It is impossible not to be deeply moved by the distress our planet is in. Climate change is affecting us all and we should and must be alarmed. 

As trustees at World Medicine, we have looked at our own position as a charity and the impact on the environment that our projects may have. Our sincere wish to minimise this impact is measured against what we genuinely believe to be a very positive experience on a human level for disadvantaged communities that would not have access within their own country to the skills and resources that we bring. Often we treat people whose complex health issues have prevented them from working. This can have a profoundly challenging influence on their wider family and so we will continue to bring relief where we can, and nurture our projects in the areas of the world where we recognise health choices are lacking and deprivation is endemic. 

Recently a group of acupuncture practitioners set up the Chinese Medicine Forestry Trust, a charity aimed at encouraging investment in global reforestation projects.

It is our intention to support this trust by donating a monetary sum to help redress the impact of our carbon footprint, collectively accumulated on our travel to and from our projects.

Peter Deadman, who will be a familiar name to many of us in the Chinese Medicine community is a trustee for this project and it is our great privilege to have him contribute to this blog:

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I have long been inspired by the ancient Chinese Daoist philosophy which places humans at the heart of the natural world. It teaches us that we are neither superior nor inferior but seamlessly integrated with all phenomena – living or not. Nature is a place of belonging and being in nature is a rich source of health and wellbeing.

Hiking in forests, hills or mountains; gazing on valleys, green meadows, winding rivers and snow-capped peaks; strolling though city parks as springtime trees unfurl with new life; kicking through piles of autumn leaves; digging our hands into rich earth to plant seeds and bulbs; watching the sea in all its moods and colours – we allow the forms, smells and sounds of nature to fill our senses. These are not the linear and conscious designs of the city (however wonderful they may be), but an infinitely varied and complex environment that has designed itself according to natural laws. And we, of course are part of it all, and until very recently in our evolutionary history lived fully immersed in it. It is no surprise, then, to find that we benefit – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – from our connection with nature, and that we suffer when we destroy it.

There is ample evidence that walking in nature – especially in forests (the Japanese call it ‘forest bathing’) – lowers stress hormones and blood pressure and increases wellbeing. Living close to trees or within sight of green spaces reduces rates of physical and mental  disease and even results in reduced aggression and lower crime rates.

But the sad truth is that we are now destroying our beautiful natural world at an ever-increasing pace. Forests are burning, and climate change, agricultural and development policies and consumerist lifestyles are inflicting what is known as the ‘sixth wave of extinction’, with up to 100,000 plant and animal species disappearing every year.  The Center for Biological Diversity describes it as the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This is not just a tragedy in its own right, but a cause of real alarm for all of us. Collapse of the marine and soil environment, rapid insect and species extinction, and climate chaos are having what The Lancet medical journal calls “very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival”.

Those of us who love nature, who understand how we are inseparably linked to the natural world, and who want to preserve its wonders for future generations, are being called on to speak out and to act in every way we can to protect and preserve this beautiful planet and all the life that inhabits it.

We can do this in multiple ways. We can change our personal lifestyles, trying to consume less, fly less, eat organically grown food wherever possible and so on. We can do it by supporting organisations and politicians that put the environment at the heart of their policies. And we can do it by taking the simple step of planting trees.

Trees are wonderful creatures. They absorb and sequester carbon, give forth oxygen, provide food and a home for thousands of species, anchor the soil, counter flooding and make us happy. There is growing evidence that they also communicate with and protect each other and support their young.

That is why – with colleagues – I have set up the Chinese Medicine Forestry Trust to plant trees and protect forests. We are asking everyone involved with Chinese medicine – practitioners, patients, students, professional organisations, schools and businesses to donate (preferably with a regular monthly donation). All the money we receive goes straight to three organisations – The World Land Trust, Tree Nation and the Woodland Trust. All of them sensitively plant and protect suitable tree species using local labour, rather than the great sterile, monoculture plantations that many carbon offset companies are responsible for planting.

And since planting and protecting one tree can cost as little as a single dollar, a regular monthly donation of a few pounds means you can go to bed every night in the knowledge that you are personally helping to plant dozens of beautiful life-giving trees every year.

Peter Deadman (peterdeadman.co.uk)