Using Celtic science and wisdom to save trees (and souls)

In her forties, Dr. Beresford-Kroeger turned to writing, although it took her a decade to find a publisher for her first manuscript. Since then, she has published eight books, including at least two Canadian bestsellers. One was about holistic gardening, another was about living a clean life. But his main focus was the importance of trees.

She wrote about the irreplaceability of the boreal forest, which spans mostly eight countries, and “oxygenates the atmosphere under the harshest conditions imaginable for any plant.” She presented her “bioplan”: if everyone on earth planted six native trees over six years, she says it could help mitigate climate change. She has written about how a trip to the forest can boost the immune system, ward off viral infections and disease, even cancer, and lower blood pressure.

There have been skeptics. An editor chastised her for being a scientist who described the landscapes as sacred, she said. The head of a foundation, presenting her following a screening of “Call of the Forest”, a documentary about her life, let slip that he did not believe a word of what she said.

Bill Libby, professor emeritus of forest genetics at the University of California, Berkeley, said he initially had reservations when Dr Beresford-Kroeger offered a biological explanation for why he felt so good after crossing groves of redwoods. She attributed her sense of well-being to the fine particles, or aerosols, emitted by the trees.

“She said the aerosols go up my nose and that’s what makes me feel good,” Dr Libby said.

Outside research has supported some of these claims. Studies by Dr. Qi Ling, a physician who co-edited a book to which Dr. Beresford-Kroeger contributed, found visits to forests or forest bathing, decreased stress, and activation of anti-cancer cells. A 2021 Italian study suggested that lower rates of Covid-19 deaths in the country’s forested areas were partly linked to aerosols boosting the immunity of trees and plants in the region.

“I was made fun of until fairly recently,” said Dr Beresford-Kroeger, his Irish accent still strong. “People suddenly seem to be waking up.”

These days, Dr. Beresford-Kroeger is in high demand, a change she attributes to growing fears about the environment and a hunger for solutions.

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