Clare Dakin is a passionate environmentalist, social entrepreneur and inspirational speaker.
She has 18 years of international experience within the personal growth sector; facilitating groups, coaching business leaders and creating change processes that lead to lasting shifts in behaviour. She worked for three years as the UK co-ordinator for a massive agro-forestry initiative in southern India called Project GreenHands (PGH). Clare is now a driving force behind Tree Sisters. I spoke to Clare and she shares this interview with readers of the3rdimagazine.
What is Tree Sisters and what is its core purpose and message?
TreeSisters is a new campaign that aims to explore the role that women can collectively play in bringing about a more appropriate response to climate change. Specifically we are addressing the imbalanced way that we take from the planet without thought for consequence; how we destroy the forests that cool us, while pumping out the Co2 that warms us. Our core purpose is to bring about swift global reforestation by making it normal for everyone to give money for trees every month to start balancing our taking and our emissions. Our message is an invitation for women to help bring about the speed and scale of shift towards sustainable living that is needed to secure any safe future for our children.
Why is there a bias towards women and is it just women who can be involved?
There is a bias towards women because there is a lack of feminine leadership in this world, and because there is a direct correlation between the diminution of the feminine and our current state of ecological overshoot. Patriarchy has given us great advances in many ways that have made us extraordinarily successful. But it has also been out of balance, leading to cultures that celebrate competition over collaboration, mind over heart, results over experience, money over life and science over nature. The degree of emotional disconnection that is considered ‘developed’ in our world sees us destroying the ecosystems upon which we depend as if sufficient wealth or technology will insulate us from catastrophic climatic shifts and the impacts on food and water that are heading straight for us.
Men and women have different tendencies, different qualities and different strengths. Women’s tendencies are towards the protection and preservation of life, towards collaboration, caretaking, sharing, listening and exploring ways to resolve issues peacefully and to the benefit of all. Women are the natural missing counterbalance, and yet knowing that, and feeling able to step up and act upon it are very different things! After centuries of being put down, many women are afraid to shine their light or make them selves visible for fear of some overt or covert backlash. TreeSisters is about the development of a movement that provides the support and encouragement needed to help women to step up and offer their gifts to the world. While this is targeted specifically towards women, we also acknowledge that the feminine exists within men as well, and that men have also suffered as a result of our emotionality being shamed. We are not exclusive at all. Men are being wonderfully supportive, and are actively finding ways of getting involved, and as we grow and expand we hope that their involvement will also increase and find its natural place within the movement.
Why were you motivated to start Tree Sisters?
I understand that your original vision stemmed from a car crash when the word ‘Experiment’ flashed up in front of you.
Yes, not the most normal way to start a new job! The whole story is in the video of a talk that I gave at the Women on Fire conference. The short story is that I had been distilling the social strategy of a huge agro-forestry initiative in southern India called Project Greenhands that was successfully bringing all sectors of society together around vast reforestation of their state. I was entranced by the radical rightness of their approach and scale in relationship to climate change and had nailed it down to seven points (or so I thought) when I had the crash (into a tree, of course) At the point of impact a bright light flashed up with the words ‘The Experiment’, and a voice said ‘humanity is running out of time, but it is not over yet. It’s going to take everyone rising to the challenge to get you through. Your greatest peril is fear of failure, and you can get over that by calling everything that you do an experiment, because you can’t fail an experiment, you can only learn!’
I said, ‘That’s a great idea! What’s the experiment?’ and back came, ‘you have to reforest the world within 10 years’. I balked, but kept listening, and was given chapter and verse about 3 projects, the first of which was TreeSisters, complete with name, purpose, the why, how etc. After a year of abject terror, I just thought…it’s an experiment, I can’t fail, I can only learn, it’s a great idea and worth a try…so I’m trying!
What is your vision for TreeSisters and how do you see it unfolding?
My vision for TreeSisters is that when our next web site is up and running and women all over the world are able to inspire each other to take action in different ways, that groups will start popping up all around the world. The TreeSister map invites women to take action in so many ways, and I am fascinated to see how that is taken up and where it takes us. Obviously we want the network to spread fast and wide, and for women everywhere to start setting up monthly payments for trees and to invite everyone else they know to do the same. Ultimately we are working on whole city mobilization strategies that replicate the Project Greenhands social strategy; TreeCities that will in effect be the brother project and a very fast way of achieving the goal laid out in the crash. To be honest we have no idea how this will unfold because it is a social experiment. It will teach us as we go, and we are already learning so much!
What is the TreeSisters map?
It is a model of 5 interrelated choices that underpin our whole strategy; the willingness to be considerate of the planet, encouraging of each other, intimate with the natural world, responsible for protecting her and courageous with our gifts. The flip side of the map is its shadow, denial, separation, disconnection, irresponsibility and fear; aspects of ourselves that we struggle to face and that contribute to our struggle to respond to climate change. The map basically provides us with a framework through which we are developing a campaign that looks at our humanity as a whole.
How do you aim to get your message across?
Through every means possible; films, social media, radio, word of mouth, celebrity support and above all events that bring large numbers of women together
So, what next?
I want to encourage all women to become treesisters! By signing up and starting a monthly payment towards reforestation builds the energy towards that possibility. I want to encourage everyone to share the films on our web site with everyone you know, and see if you can start to build interest in your area for a treesister group. At this point, we are in fundraising mode to build our infrastructure, so spreading the word by any means possible to people that you know will resonate with this, or want to get involved is profoundly helpful.. Thank you so much for this platform!