Daily Archives: July 31, 2011

Tree :: every tree and a letter to you ::

Hello you lovely people… 

This is a long overdue post, for those of you who have made UpTrees possible, or whom I’ve met along the way. 

In case you’re confused, – it’s a project that involved climbing a tree everyday for a year, having great conversations with people up trees and documenting it all with my camera for a (beautiful and inspiring) book.
You may have been one of 150 plus people who I climbed with between May 2010 and May 2011.
I appreciate this is a lot to read for some of you but for those I met UpTrees it would be great if you had time to look at the text written in green at the bottom. Thankyou!

What’s in this post?

– Thank you!
– Some of what happened and people I met.
– What have I learned?
– What’s next?
– Did I meet you in a tree – can you help expand the book with a moment of your time? – (In green below).

– The Uptrees exhibition, The Tree party, the Indian block carpenter and Peterson paper factory have their own posts that all link in to this end song.

So the ‘official’ end to the project was May 16th 2011 and marked by a Family Tree Party in Lillehammer, Norway. There’s an image below of the final tree with many of the family and close friends, and friends of family and friends…etc. Many people who hadn’t seen each other for over 30 years. It seemed like a fitting ‘conclusion’ to a project that ended up being about family, and also how we interact with the environment… and much more too of course! 

You people who I climbed with – activists, politicians, poets, artists, children, a band, an economist, an ex drug smuggler, environmental leaders, teachers, professors, a shaman couple, a union representative, a friend waiting for and then getting a heart transplant, a war veteran, a dog and a plastic cow, – are bad labels I’ve attached to you to express the diversity of the project quickly, but they are just bad labels.
You told me your memories and experiences of trees and your relationship to them, and shared your knowledge and wisdom with humour and honesty.
I played a tree surgeon, met one, petitioned for digging up the roads to plant trees on April fools, was winched into a tree by the fire-brigade for a TV spot, staged my own death falling from a tree, had my hair cut in a tree, played conkers in a tree, climbed a tree wearing skis, had a skype conversation with someone in the same tree, planned the ‘revolution’, been drunk in a tree, been scratched, scraped, bruised, knocked and strained myself in trees and getting in and out of them. I’ve dedicated trees to people, hung messages in trees, pretended to be a bird sleeping in a tree, made a tree hunt with a lunatic trying to cut down a tree, climbed the Christmas tree given to London for the war effort, climbed at the site of Neanderthal man and at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, climbed in minus 23 wearing a Santa suit, been in numerous tree houses and a tree house theatre, and in rain and sunshine, on beaches, cliffs, in rivers and cities and playgrounds and it’s been quite an adventure!
And I may also sound like a complete nut.
I climbed in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss, Austrian, German, Dutch and Danish trees, then ran out of money in Norway and got stuck having decided not to fly; seemed hypocritical to be talking about sustainability and the environment and then fly everywhere. Still… I have to admit to using a lot of oil to make this work. It’s all relative.

I‘m slightly embarrassed not to have invited you all to the tree party but there was so much going on at the time, a lot of important things got left by the wayside.

What a crazy year though!
I’ve been incredibly inspired and it’s thanks to you all. It kind of became an informal research project which has given me a better understanding of the problems we face, and some of their solutions, – and brought me closer to the networks of people who are already doing some amazing things. There are so many people with good ideas, which is encouraging. We need all the encouragement we can get, with regard to shifting the status quo.

UpTrees was play and conversation. Climbing and hot air. Childlike and cerebral. A time to gather and lark about. This primal activity was at times combined with an attempt to plan the future of the planet. 

The project was critisised by Erik Dammann for being an unserious gimmick; ‘climbing trees was no way to discuss ecological meltdown’. (he still agreed to meet me and we talked for an hour. He’s a real hero). To some extent I agree with him and I’ve recently thought the book aught to have the sub heading, –

‘Diary of a failed environmentalist and activist’

The project maybe gimmicky, however the book will also present a chaotic creative journey full of ideas, humour, politics, science, wining and musing about the global problems, poetry and of course glorious and decrepit trees in each of their contexts. Each tree was a different performance space, or arts project on its own and it was the relentless challenge of climbing every day while developing the overall ideas. It was as much about keeping myself interested, as well as ideas being relevant and new for the project. At the same time trying to lead a normal life. Which was impossible. The trees took over for a year completely out of the blue.
www.rehabrd.com – an open arts project with a ‘political’ agenda inspiring a redesign of our cities, has developed alongside UpTrees and the projects have fed each other. Also 444trees was seeded as a result of this mad year of climbing, – an attempt to plant a tree in each country of the world. I’m still polishing the idea so all thoughts are welcome.

New projects will hopefully be about action and implementing ideas. Time to balance playing with planting and the hot air with fire.

What obvious lessons have been reaffirmed through this ‘research’?

– We need a revolution, whether that be inspired from the bottom or come from the top, so long as it spirals upwards as well as turns around. It may be that many of our leaders in politics and business need to find other kinds of work that better serves the world. The ideas of other thinkers need to take centre stage. ie David Fleming’s TEQ’s energy rationing economy, the profiling of Ragnhild Lie’s Petrolholics Anonymous group – (actually a performance but its a fun and poignant idea), or John Gilbert’s understanding of forests, Henning Berby’s wisdom in city planning… etc. 

– The resulting politics or activity needs to be filtered through a relearned sensitivity to the rest of our fellow biodiversity counterparts and systems and that biodiversity includes our fellow humans.
– Management and sharing of resources will follow suit.
Ultimately it’s about standards. The standards by which decisions are made at all levels of society. The declaration of human rights is a good start for protecting people from business, government and each other.
The point is – it’s all there. It just needs the right people to have the balls to lead us away from disaster right now. The status quo must be challenged asap.
What this is all about? Combining Us and Them, so only Us remains. Then we can begin working together to save the world. We can’t do it in isolation. The temptation of the tree… The analogy of branches and connections. The one root. The one purpose – reaching for the light and gripping the Earth so we don’t fall over.

What’s next?

So what’s to become of UpTrees?
I’ve begun gathering all the material together which you all helped me create. There are pages of transcribed audio that need double checking, plus more audio that still needs transcribing. Photos need sorting through and editing etc. I need to think about crowd funding possibilities to get the book finished. I need to make some example pages so people know what they are supporting… etc. So in short there is lots to do.
I will send transcriptions  out to those of you involved to look over once they are edited. 
I already mentioned there were a great deal of people I didn’t get to meet or certain trees I didn’t get to climb, during the year UpTrees, like visiting a 9000 year old tree on a mountain in Sweden, or meeting the person who thought up the U.N. Billion trees campaign, or climbing with the film director Jonas Selberg Augustsen who made the documentary The Tree Lover. I will attempt to make up for some of these gaps in the coming months, or integrate them into the new projects. Nothing is wasted let’s imagine. Camping on a mountain side in Norway is quite a nice way to end all that climbing too.
It sounds corny but I feel closer to nature than I was before this year began. I’ve still got a long way to go but the slow growth philosophy trees have, – definitely rubbed off on me. (Another way of saying I’ve become incredibly lazy). The first few days after the project ended were the most profound. It’s definitely started something.
Thank you everyone! It’s given me new purpose and hope (mixed into the nihilism)… it’s given me a rich year of adventure to say the least. You never know where a decision will lead you… onto a Norwegian chat show, up a tree in a storm, in a tree with your estranged parents…I thought of Uptrees and started it on the same day! Which is supposed to be an encouragement for doing ideas rather than me showing off.
For those of you I recorded conversations with… I wonder if you can help me by emailing your thoughts on the following…

– Recommended reading materials.

If you can remember our conversation – it could be something relevant to that. Or it could be any inspiring books you’ve read. 

– Your political dream team.

If you could choose – who would be on your cabinet? They can be people alive or dead. Also include what role they would have on your cabinet. Are you going to be prime minister? Or what is your role?
I will keep updating this site with developments for all these projects. Please to me  with thoughts and comments on any of it as well! It’s not over till it’s over.
My brother worked out that a tree big enough for 7 billion people to climb together would have to be 3.5 km wide and 4 km tall.