One of the 3 asks from the Cabinet Takeover 2021 was ‘Trees for All’. As one of my last tasks before retiring from Forestry, it was exciting to deal with such a well thought out, informed ‘ask’ from Scottish Children for our trees and forests.

One of the fundamental rights for children is access to a clean and safe environment (CRC Article 27) but that is just the start. This is also about social justice, for all our young people to have access to green and blue spaces to play, learn and chill.

My forestry work focussed on ‘Education and Skills’, but I spent much time advocating for spaces, particularly in urban areas, where children could access trees; as a tree, a wee pocket of woodland or a great urban forest or park, near where they live. When it comes to thinking and planning where we live, this quote sums it up for me:

“Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
– Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá (Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods )

As a friend of mine once said, “if we can design for children and elderly people, we would have some great places to live!” I like this quote because it regards humans as an indicator species being part of our environment and not separate from it.

I loved working with trees and children. Foresters think in timeframes that are can be weird to the rest of us. They work on 40, 100 and sometimes 200 years’ timelines when planning forests. What I love about this is the nurturing of our young children and young trees is the same. They both need TLC – ‘tender loving care’ – and in the case of trees, ‘Trees love Care’. Ok, so children don’t need mulching and trees don’t need their ‘5 a day’ but both mulch and ‘5 a day’ provide trees and children with essential nutrients!!

With the Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition (Pre COP26) event in September 2021 and COP26 Glasgow 2021, the focus is on the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. Trees and forests are just one way we can mitigate climate and support biodiversity and for me there is no better example to illustrate the complexity of the climate emergency and sustainable development (combining the elements of humans, environment, economy and governance) than trees and forests. It is not just about oxygen and cleaning our air; what about a barrier for noise pollution, soaking up rainwater, improving soil, providing a home or food for many other living things, providing jobs and places to play, and providing us with many stories, poems and spiritual/ religious links? I think this is reflected in the requirements from the Children’s Parliament for ‘Trees for All’, I’ve made my comments on these in italics:

  • Protect and look after spaces where trees are already spreading and growing naturally.
    – This is happening already in many places but maybe it needs to happen more in our urban areas for soil, water retention, biodiversity, air quality, etc.
  • Plant more trees in places they would naturally grow and make sure different types of trees are growing together.
    See 1!
  • Make sure all tree guards are biodegradable.
    What a brilliant request that is in tune with current research about tree guards and a reflection about the need to look at what materials we use to make things.
  • Give everyone in Scotland a tree and help them plant it themselves, or with the help of somebody else.
    This idea would help to raise the profile of what trees do for us and what kind of TLC they need.

“We have technology we can use against climate change – the name of the technology is a tree!” (Member of Children’s Parliament, aged 11).

It is not just the trees; we also have a fantastic generation of children and young people who recognise what trees and forests can do for Scotland and are working to help look after the trees we have and planning to plant more.

And that is why I am proud to be a #Unfeartie for Scotland’s children. Maybe we could make trees Unfearties as well – look at what they for do our children!?

Sally York
(Former) Education Policy Advisor
Scottish Forestry

Maybe we could make trees Unfearties as well – look at what they for do our children!?