TreeSisters Tree References

TreeSisters Path to Nature-led Restoration

By Suzi Steer and Rebecca Lefton

In this article, Suzi Steer, Education and Alliances for TreeSisters and Rebecca Lefton, Strategic Alliances and Pathways Manager for TreeSisters, provide an overview of TreeSisters’ positioning and actions related to current global conversations around climate change and the environment. These include: Rights of Nature, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Mother Earth Delegation of United Original Nations and the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC.

Speaking up for the Rights of Nature in the Convention on Biological Diversity

On July 12th 2021, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat released the first draft  for the next round of global goals for biodiversity for the decade (a post-2020 Framework), which removed: "to consider, where appropriate, the rights of Nature," replacing it with "employing rights-based approaches.”

TreeSisters is joining our allies from the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature through an effort led by Earth Law Center, Rights of Mother Earth, Rights of Nature Sweden and Earth Advocacy Youth, who are campaigning for the “Rights of Nature” to be added back into the Framework.

We also have joined a Non-State Actors Call to Action, calling for greater ambition in the post-2020 Framework and reinforcing the Leaders Pledge for Nature, which TreeSisters endorsed last year. It is also highlighting a rights-based and bottom-up (as opposed to top-down) approach.

Listening with the Mother Earth Delegation 

TreeSisters interact with other global international groups and cross-reference what we are learning through bi-weekly listening sessions with the
Mother Earth Delegation for United Original Nations.  We are in deep gratitude for this relationship through the Fountain.  One important example of how this relationship is unfolding has been gaining insight into multilateral bodies and processes, such as the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

What is the Sixth IPCC Report?

  • The IPCC report is the work of hundreds of authors and scientists from 66 countries, 28% of whom are women. The report also references thousands of scientific peer-reviewed papers. 
  • This report’s language gave a very stark highlight on the role of humans in the climate crisis. According to the report, it is only possible to avoid warming of 1.5 °C or 2 °C if massive and immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made.
  • In a commentary in Reuters, David Kaimowitz, senior forestry officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and manager of the Forest and Farm Facility, highlighted that the goal of 30% land for Nature by 2030 will not be achievable without working with Original Peoples and local communities.
  • The policymaker summaries do not include references to some of the more comprehensive or contentious aspects of the report including, Weather Modification.


Comments on References to Original Peoples 

The IPCC report speaks to the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge for reaching a 1.5°C pathway. Specifically, it references a
2018 Special Report of the IPCC which found that, “education, information, and community approaches, including those that are informed by indigenous knowledge and local knowledge can accelerate the wide-scale behaviour changes consistent with adapting to and limiting global warming to 1.5°C.” 

The report points to IPCC Working Group II as most extensively utilising Indigenous and local knowledge (1). Working Group II is looking at Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Their contribution to the 6th Assessment Report of the IPCC will be ready in February 2022. As the latest IPCC report says, “Ongoing research seeks to conduct further dialogue, utilise Indigenous and local knowledge as an independent line of evidence complementing scientific understanding, and analyse their utility for multiple purposes, especially adaptation.” We are interested in learning more about how this dialogue is being conducted and the weight given to such knowledge. 

The IPCC report also recognizes the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge in filling scientific data gaps on climate changes. It says, 

“Indigenous and local knowledge includes information about past and present climate states. However, assessing this knowledge, and integrating it with the scientific literature, remains a challenge to be met. This lack of assessment capability and integration leads to most WGI [Working Group I] chapters still not including Indigenous and local knowledge in their assessment findings."

From our perspective having engaged in a deep listening process with Original Peoples and our ongoing commitment to elevating this knowledge, the challenge appears to be how to cross paradigms between:

  • The worldview of Original Peoples working with ancestral knowledge and the Earth and living systems as conscious intelligent and, 
  • The scientific materialist worldview that dominates climate analysts, carbon accounting and scientists from all the extraordinary wealth of highly skilled disciplines that feed into the IPCC report. 

Within TreeSisters, we have found it has been essential and transformational to be listening and learning from the Mother Earth Delegation and a great many other representatives of Original Peoples through the Indigenous Wisdom for the Earth Series, as well as our planting partners. It is interesting to compare the solutions generated from approaches that focus on carbon accounting and those that come from listening directly to the needs of communities. When we centre the needs and wisdom of Nature through communities, TreeSisters have found we can better address our entrainment to systematically oppressive thinking and incorporate scientific understanding in service to living systems.

All trees give you direct access to a relationship with the Global Forest. Their presence in your landscape gives you a doorway into the huge contribution that trees make in a way that is observable and tangible.   Many women in the TreeSisters online network, the Nest, speak of their direct experience of consciousness in their relationship with trees, which maybe speaks to why Native Americans refer to trees as Standing People

We continue to emphasise bridging these world views in our position as a reforestation organisation supported by a network of people who are actively engaged in consciousness shift work, as well as, through our alliances in the conservation and reforestation sectors. Nature-led landscape regeneration by people who listen to and work with Nature provides a powerful vision and practical way forwards for living in harmony with Nature.

Charles Eisenstein: Placing water systems ahead of carbon accounting

In Conclusion

UN bodies, governments and corporations are providing pathways forwards for addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity based on interpretations of science (though not always in line with what science says is necessary). We know and are in contact with many passionate, wonderful people working within these structures and support their valiant work. TreeSisters is assessing these approaches and policies with a view towards their effects on communities and landscapes. In addition, we are attuned to where they might fall short. We will continue to focus on the needs of grassroots communities, individuals and organisations who have, in some cases for thousands of years, been actively and beautifully listening to and working on behalf of a conscious, highly knowledgeable, multidimensional and sacred Earth.  As we walk this way in allyship, the path that is aligned to Nature rises to greet us every step of the way.

If you have been touched or inspired by any of the subjects brought up in this article, please feel welcome to bring your questions and thoughts into the community in the Nest.

To make a donation to support this work please visit our Give page.

Written by Suzi Martineau (Steer) & Rebecca Lefton
Published September 24, 2020

Image credit Top photo Lisa Kessler
Image credit Praying Mantis: S.N Pattende

Suzi Martineau (birth name Steer) is working on Education and Alliances within the TreeSisters Network and on developing TreeSisters strategy moving forwards into the UNEP Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2020-2030).  She is currently working on a number of different projects including supporting our education through the Nest, developing collaborative partnerships with reforestation and tree focused NGOs and grassroots projects, and extending our online database of global reforestation projects, planting methods, legal strategies, education and media networks with a team of fabulous TreeSisters volunteers.

Rebecca Lefton brings more than 15 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and think tanks at the local, national, and international levels. Rebecca is passionate about educating and empowering people to be leaders on local and global issues, particularly the environment and gender equality. When working in Washington D.C., she directed global advocacy and policy initiatives on climate change.  Passionate about women’s rights, Rebecca has developed a volume of work on the nexus between poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate.

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1.  The IPCC has three working groups. Working Group I assesses the physical science of climate change. This is the report out now, which we are analyzing here. For more information see,