Richard St. Barbe Baker

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Richard St Barbe Baker (1989-1982) In 1969 was made the first Honorary Life Member of the World Wildlife Fund. [1]

"During the 1930's, while a resident of England, he traveled to the redwoods for nine consecutive years, working with the Save the Redwoods League and other local groups in the trenches." [2]

In 1983 he was honored with a Special Achievement Award from the Arbor Day Foundation. [3]

"In 1922 he took a step, unprecedented at the time, to remedy this lack of funds. He consulted with the Africans themselves, approaching the Kikuyu Chiefs and Elders in the area and enquiring how their tribesmen could be enlisted to help with tree planting. He worked with them to develop a scheme for the voluntary planting of trees. This resulted in three thousand warriors coming to his camp from among whom, with the assistance of the Chiefs, he selected fifty to be the first Watu wa Miti, or Men of the Trees. They promised before N'gai, the High God, that they would protect the native forest, plant ten native trees each year, and take care of trees everywhere. The society of The Men of the Trees later spread to many other countries and its membership today includes men and women from all walks of life. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales became the Patron of the organization in 1979...

"The first indication of the new direction of his career came in 1929 when the High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir John Chancellor, asked St. Barbe to apply the lessons garnered during his time in Kenya to help unify disparate religionists in the British protectorate. In a move that indicated his appreciation of the role of the Bahá`í Faith, St. Barbe's first action was to approach its Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, who became the first life member of the Men of the Trees in Palestine. Working closely with the High Commissioner, St. Barbe then went on to enlist the Chancellor of the Hebrew University, the Grand Mufti of the Supreme Muslim Council, the Latin Patriarch, the Bishop of Jerusalem and others, explaining that: `. . . there was no land needing trees more than Palestine and no land would respond so well to planting.' From this initiative, forty-two nurseries were established. However, St. Barbe realized that providing the seedlings was not enough, and so he set out to establish tree planting as part of the culture, as he had done so successfully in Kenya. To this end he was instrumental in making Tu Bi'Shvat (the traditional Feast of Trees) a national tree-planting day which is now taken up by most Israeli schoolchildren. In his project in Palestine St. Barbe had the active support of notables including Field Marshal Viscount Allenby and Sir Francis Younghusband. His ability to enlist the help of prominent figures was now combined with his appreciation of the practical side of forestry and an understanding of how to involve local people in his plans. Thus was set a pattern of action which was to result in the involvement of millions of men and women around the world in the planting of billions of trees." [4]

"Returning to Cambridge, Baker studied forestry and after finishing his degree he was posted to Kenya as a forester with the Colonial Office. Appalled by the continued destruction of the scrublands in the northern highlands by the Kikuyu tribesmen Baker convinced the people there to plant trees to replace those they had removed. He instituted a Dance of The Trees out of which arose the Men of The Trees, the Swahili for which is Watu wa Miti.

"In 1924 Baker founded Men of The Trees in England and in the same year became interested in the Baha'i faith, a faith which he pursued until his death. In 1924 he was appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests in Nigeria, and in later years wrote in eulogistic terms of the great forests of that country. In 1931 Baker went to Palestine at the invitation of Sir John Chancellor, the Governor, to assist in establishing a tree planting program in the hope of uniting warring factions. He spent some time in Jerusalem co-ordinating a meeting of the heads of the Arab, Hebrew and Catholic communities to plant trees under the banner of Men of The Trees.

"Baker next went to the United States of America on a lecture tour, during which he wrote his first book MEN OF THE TREES. He travelled to California to see the giant Redwoods and became involved in a move to conserve these trees from further destruction. Moving to Canada, he marvelled at the forests of Douglas firs before visiting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia on his way back to England. Off the south coast of Australia his ship encountered heavy seas, he fell and injured his leg, and was subsequently put ashore at Colombo for medical treatment. The surgeon wanted to amputate his leg but was persuaded by Baker to desist and a cure was effected through poultices made from leaves of the Neem Tree. On his return to England Baker set about saving the Redwoods. 'The most important thing in my life' he wrote, launching the Save the Redwoods Fund and lecturing all the while.

"He returned to New York and drew publicity everywhere he travelled, whipping up interest and funds to save the Californian trees. Every year for the next eight years he returned to California to nurture his dream and finally twelve thousand acres of the trees were handed over to the State of California as a reserve. His friendship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt resulted in the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"Back in England Baker continued to be involved in lecturing. And in 1939 was invited by King George VI to Buckingham Palace to explore the possibilities of His Majesty visiting the Civilian Conservation Corps near Washington. Baker visited the United States that year, leading a team of Men of The Trees. On the outbreak of war, Baker joined the Local Defence Volunteers and also became immersed in the supply of timber for the war effort, insisting that for every tree felled another should be planted.

"In 1946 Baker married and by 1949 two children had been born. At all times busy in the interests of tree preservation, he launched 'Tree Services' for the care of ornamental trees, acquiring vans and training teams of young men in the care of trees. He founded the Forestry Association of Great Britain.

"In 1952 he went to Europe, addressing conferences in Germany and Austria and lecturing to university graduates in Vienna on the importance of tree cover. He returned to New York, campaigning for tree preservation and late in that year led the first Sahara University Expedition, raising funds by writing FAMOUS TREES. After hitches with the French Colonial Office about crossing the Sahara, he departed for Algeria.

"His experiences in fifteen thousand kilometres of travel are recorded in his book SAHARA CHALLENGE. Returning to Kenya he renewed his friendship with Chief Josiah Njonjo who had been present as interpreter when Men of The Trees was founded thirty years before. In Kenya he attended a conference of followers of the Baha'i faith. Back in London he took to a speaker's rostrum at Speakers Corner for several Sundays, talking about the need for trees in North Africa. He became involved in a brush with officialdom over the threatened removal of elm trees in the Broad Walk in London.

"In 1954 he went to New Zealand at the invitation of Men of The Trees there to convince the New Zealand State Forestry Service of the need for trees in Central Otago. On the boat home he started writing LAND OF TANE which was completed and typed before the vessel reached England.

"In 1955 Baker organised an exhibition in Cambridge called MAN AGAINST NATURE and a similar exhibition was staged in Paris...

" Richard St Barbe Baker was born in a country house in the South of Hampshire, England, on 9 October 1889 and from his earliest days developed a keen awareness of the beauty of the forests and trees and the creatures therein. While still in his teens Baker went to Canada and studied arts and science at the newly-established University of Saskatchewan. He worked as a lumber-jack in a camp, rode horses with the American Indians, and all the while kept ponies at the University campus. During this time he became aware of how the topsoil of the farms was being blown away, due to the lack of trees which had all been removed by the farmers so he encouraged them by planting trees. He was also experimenting at the university farms with various species which produced the best shelter.

"On his return to England he took to studying divinity at Cambridge but while there the first world war broke out. At first his Christian beliefs prompted him to become a conscientious objector but he changed his mind and joined the cavalry. Given a commission and transferred to the artillery, he was sent to France in charge of a battery. He was wounded twice and was then put in charge of bringing horses over to France across the Channel. After being wounded again, he was discharged from the service.

Returning to Cambridge, Baker studied forestry and after finishing his degree he was posted to Kenya as a forester with the Colonial Office. Appalled by the continued destruction of the scrublands in the northern highlands by the Kikuyu tribesmen Baker convinced the people there to plant trees to replace those they had removed. He instituted a Dance of The Trees out of which arose the Men of The Trees, the Swahili for which is Watu wa Miti.

In 1924 Baker founded Men of The Trees in England and in the same year became interested in the Baha'i faith, a faith which he pursued until his death. In 1924 he was appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests in Nigeria, and in later years wrote in eulogistic terms of the great forests of that country. In 1931 Baker went to Palestine at the invitation of Sir John Chancellor, the Governor, to assist in establishing a tree planting program in the hope of uniting warring factions. He spent some time in Jerusalem co-ordinating a meeting of the heads of the Arab, Hebrew and Catholic communities to plant trees under the banner of Men of The Trees.

Baker next went to the United States of America on a lecture tour, during which he wrote his first book MEN OF THE TREES. He travelled to California to see the giant Redwoods and became involved in a move to conserve these trees from further destruction. Moving to Canada, he marvelled at the forests of Douglas firs before visiting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia on his way back to England. Off the south coast of Australia his ship encountered heavy seas, he fell and injured his leg, and was subsequently put ashore at Colombo for medical treatment. The surgeon wanted to amputate his leg but was persuaded by Baker to desist and a cure was effected through poultices made from leaves of the Neem Tree. On his return to England Baker set about saving the Redwoods. 'The most important thing in my life' he wrote, launching the Save the Redwoods Fund and lecturing all the while.

He returned to New York and drew publicity everywhere he travelled, whipping up interest and funds to save the Californian trees. Every year for the next eight years he returned to California to nurture his dream and finally twelve thousand acres of the trees were handed over to the State of California as a reserve. His friendship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt resulted in the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Back in England Baker continued to be involved in lecturing. And in 1939 was invited by King George VI to Buckingham Palace to explore the possibilities of His Majesty visiting the Civilian Conservation Corps near Washington. Baker visited the United States that year, leading a team of Men of The Trees. On the outbreak of war, Baker joined the Local Defence Volunteers and also became immersed in the supply of timber for the war effort, insisting that for every tree felled another should be planted.

In 1946 Baker married and by 1949 two children had been born. At all times busy in the interests of tree preservation, he launched 'Tree Services' for the care of ornamental trees, acquiring vans and training teams of young men in the care of trees. He founded the Forestry Association of Great Britian.

In 1952 he went to Europe, addressing conferences in Germany and Austria and lecturing to university graduates in Vienna on the importance of tree cover. He returned to New York, campaigning for tree preservation and late in that year led the first Sahara University Expedition, raising funds by writing FAMOUS TREES. After hitches with the French Colonial Office about crossing the Sahara, he departed for Algeria.

His experiences in fifteen thousand kilometres of travel are recorded in his book SAHARA CHALLENGE. Returning to Kenya he renewed his friendship with Chief Josiah Njonjo who had been present as interpreter when Men of The Trees was founded thirty years before. In Kenya he attended a conference of followers of the Baha'i faith. Back in London he took to a speaker's rostrum at Speakers Corner for several Sundays, talking about the need for trees in North Africa. He became involved in a brush with officialdom over the threatened removal of elm trees in the Broad Walk in London.

In 1954 he went to New Zealand at the invitation of Men of The Trees there to convince the New Zealand State Forestry Service of the need for trees in Central Otago. On the boat home he started writing LAND OF TANE which was completed and typed before the vessel reached England.

In 1955 Baker organised an exhibition in Cambridge called MAN AGAINST NATURE and a similar exhibition was staged in Paris. In 1957 he fell ill and his life hung precariously in the balance for some days. While convalescing he was invited to New Zealand by some friends to really regain his health. He was also invited to a world vegetarian congress in India - he had practised vegetarianism since a child. While in India he met Nehru and gave him advice on how to combat desertification. He reached New Zealand, stayed on at a station near Mt. Cook, and took to riding once again. On his return to England he undertook the 'Cobbett Ride' following the path taken by William Cobbett who had been an acquaintance of Baker's grandfather, a ride which took twenty days to cover the three hundred and thirty miles and during which he gave talks to dozens of schools. He also took up flying lessons!

Whilst in New Zealand he married his hostess at Mt. Cook, his first marriage having been dissolved some years before, and he made arrangements to go and live in New Zealand. He flew to Moscow by the latest Russian jet plane, taking a turn at the controls during the flight, and then journeyed through India to New Zealand. Then it was off to America and attendance at a forestry conference in Seattle. Back in New Zealand he rode from the most northerly Kauri tree in the country to the most southerly - nineteen hundred kilometres, and all this at the age of seventy four. This was followed by further riding to lecture on the Sahara Reclamation Program, interspersed with talks to school children around the country.

This stint Baker was invited to go to California to throw his weight behind a movement to prevent a new highway being made through the Redwood forests. Three days later he was there. He went to Washington where he was interviewed by the Secretary of the Interior who listened to Baker and agreed to an alternative route suggested by him. Baker next went to London to prepare for a conference in Rabat on the best way of reclaiming the Sahara, and then went to Madrid to address the World Forestry Conference. It was 1966. In London later that year he was presented with the Freshel Award by the Millennium Guild of New York for his book SAHARA CHALLENGE. Returning to New Zealand Baker persuaded the government to increase the planting program in that country. He next visited Queensland, denouncing the wholesale cutting of forest to make land available for farming.

He then returned to India to advise on means of arresting the encroaching desert, and then on to Pakistan for a like purpose. In Kuwait he interviewed dignitaries and was impressed with their re-afforestation program. In Lebanon in 1968 he saw the Cedar trees and here, too, was encouraged by what he saw in the way of desert reclamation. In Rome he met the Pope and solicited interest there for a dream of reclaiming the Sahara. In 1978 Richard St Barbe Baker received an OBE for his work on trees. In the 1978-79 edition of 'Who's Who' St Barbe rated an entry of seventy one lines. St Barbe became less and less involved in Men of The Trees after he had settled in New Zealand but continued to travel the world lecturing, cajoling, haranguing people everywhere with his message about trees. These trips invariably included the United Kingdom and he also managed to return to Kenya...

"It has been asserted that one country on which he had an enormous influence was Australia. St Barbe visited Western Australia in 1979 and as a result of his stay Men of The Trees was founded there by forester Charles Peaty, who went on to institute Men of The Trees branches in all Australian States. St Barbe returned to Western Australia in 1980. Early in 1981 St Barbe passed through Sydney on his way to China and during his three day sojourn gave innumerable interviews and addresses on the need for trees in the world. Later in 1981 he returned to Perth and then travelled to the other state capital cities, attending public meetings and giving interviews before returning to New Zealand." [5]

Books

  • Richard St. Barbe Baker (1985). My Life, My Trees (2nd edition ed.). Forres: Findhorn.
  • Richard St. Barbe Baker (1954). Sahara Challenge. London, England: The Camelot Press Ltd.
  • Richard St. Barbe Baker (1945). The Redwoods. London : Lindsay Drummond
  • Richard St. Barbe Baker (1944) I Planted Trees. Lutterworth Press: London and Redhill.

Biographies

  • Richard St Barbe Baker-A keepsake book for all ages and generations" Published by Men of The Trees, Perth, Western Australia. 1989.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Tributes, manofthetrees, accessed April 19, 2009
  2. The Redwoods, manofthetrees, accessed April 19, 2009
  3. Previous Year National Arbor Day Awards, Arbor Day Foundation, accessed April 19, 2009
  4. Hugh C. Locke, In Memoriam, manofthetrees, accessed April 19, 2009.
  5. [http://www.menofthetrees.com.au/history.html History of the founder of Men Of The Trees], menofthetrees, accessed April 19, 2009.
  6. The Future is Abundant: A Guide to Sustainable Agriculture, tilthproducers, accessed April 19, 2009.