Arbor (Tree) Day in Australia – June 20, 2018
Arbor Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, but mostly organized on different dates. The first known Arbor Day was celebrated in 1594 in Spain. In the USA it’s celebrated on April 27th. In Australia it’s on June 20. Jewish people observe Tu B’Shevat (Tu Bishvat), on the 15th day of the Jewish months of Shevat. This festival is also known as the “New Year for Trees”.
The very first Arbor Day is Australia was observed in 1889. The proposal for observation of this day was made by several South Australians, who were concerned about the environmental situation of the continent. The activity of white settlement had led to the rapid loss of vegetation across South Australia, and that is why an appropriate environmental event was demanded. The proposal was backed by parliamentarians and soon Arbor Day was established.
The inaugural event included a parade and after it the officials planted trees. For instance, then-governor Lord Kintore and his wife planted a bunya pine and a weeping Scotch elm. These trees still grow today. Pupils also planted a number of trees in designated areas.
Protection of the environment is a great issue in Australia, that is why a number of Tree Days are observed by Australians. For instance, every state has its own Arbor Day and Arbor Week is observed in Victoria. Moreover, National Tree Day and School Tree Day are also observed by Australians.
Lynne Baab reflects on trees (from a North American context).
I have always loved trees. They speak to me of God’s creativity, complexity, beauty and provision. In high school, we had three young birch trees in our back yard. To me, they looked like young girls dancing, reflecting the joy of living in God’s beautiful world.
As a university student, I took hundreds of photos of the sun shining through trees. I particularly admired the translucence of maple leaves backlit by the sun, speaking to me of the beauty of the Light of the World.
I often remember the trees from places I’ve traveled. The first time I travelled to New Mexico and Colorado in the fall, the round, golden aspen leaves made me gasp with pleasure. The trees looked like they were covered with gold coins, a picture of God’s rich beauty and abundance.
The eucalyptus trees in Australia were a revelation. I had always loved the smell of eucalyptus trees when I visited Northern California, but I thought “eucalyptus” referred to one kind of tree. In Australia, dozens of species of eucalyptus fill the streets and parks, each species with a slightly different color or shape. Of the 700 species of eucalyptus in the world, most are native to Australia. Seeing all those different kinds of eucalyptus trees made me feel like a kid in a candy shop of trees, all of them intricately created by the Maker of all beauty.
Trees are used throughout the Bible as metaphors for various aspects of faith. The tree planted by streams of water in Psalm 1 bears fruit in its season and has green leaves even in a drought. Who is like that tree? A person who loves God, does what is right, and meditates on God’s law day and night.
The vision of God’s abundance described in Isaiah 55:12 talks about joy and peace, which will be so powerful that the mountains will sing and “all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” I read that verse for the first time as a very young Christian, during my photographing-trees-in-the-sun phase, and I posted the verse on my bulletin board because it was so vivid and joyous.
In John’s vision of heaven, recounted in Revelation 21 and 22, the river of life flows through the city, with the tree of life growing beside it, “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2). The nations so desperately need God’s healing. I wonder if those healing leaves look like maple leaves with the sun shining through them. Perhaps those healing leaves are gold, like aspen leaves in the fall.
Trees take simple ingredients – carbon dioxide from the air, water and minerals from the soil – and turn them into beautiful branches and leaves, as well as delicious fruit and precious oxygen. Because humans and other mammals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, trees give balance, providing the oxygen that is essential for human life. Without trees, the rising carbon dioxide level of the air would make life impossible for two reasons: lack of oxygen for mammals to breathe and ever increasing temperatures caused by carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect.
Arbor Day focuses on planting trees, these miracles of beauty and oxygen. This year, to celebrate Arbor Day, plant a tree. Draw a tree. Photograph a tree. Look out your window or go outside and enjoy the trees that you can see. And don’t forget to thank God for trees.
(Originally posted on Godspace).
For further reflection:
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How they Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben will blow your mind. Did you know that trees communicate with each other? They do it through chemicals they release into the wind and through fungi and other plants in the earth.
In November 2017, Rev Brian Polkinghorne was presented the ‘Award of Merit’ by the Roseworthy Old Collegians Association. The now 80-year-old and his family moved to Tanzania 12 months after he completed agriculture studies at Roseworthy College in 1969. He went as an agricultural missionary and has been back and forth to Tanzania on many occasions working on different projects. The African Evangelistic Enterprise invited him to open up a large reforestation project in Tanzania, funded by the Australian government. Brian and his team convinced farmers to plant and nurture 6.72 million trees. More here.