Pollyanna Darling has a name that sounds like it came from an Enid Blyton story, and like many of Blyton’s plucky heroines, she is standing up for a cause that needs help. Something vital to our existence and wellbeing, in fact. Our trees.
By Victoria McGuin
Pollyanna is a multi-faceted woman: an intuitive coach, a writer, singer, mother, activist and Tree Sister. Born in the UK, she has been living in Australia for over 24 years based in Cairns, Perth and Brisbane before moving to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
“We came here for a visit and I saw Mount Cooroora and said, ‘I have to live here’. We moved to the Obi Valley before moving to the Palmwoods area where we had to find a home for six people, two dogs, chickens and blue-tongue lizards – not easy!”
In 2011, Pollyanna came across a video by Clare Dubois, the founder of an organisation called TreeSisters, whose main aim is to replant and restore rainforest, and create new ones. “I saw the video and burst into tears, it was so inspiring.
“I contacted Clare and said, ‘You’ve got me, I want to help. What can I do?’ and I’ve been volunteering ever since.”
Such is her dedication for spreading the word and work of TreeSisters that she is now the Australian and New Zealand Coordinator.
“We are building a grassroots network across the world and it is really quite amazing.”
TreeSisters focus their attention on the tropics, where trees grow fast. “We put trees in the ground in Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Cameroon, India and Brazil, and also empower local women who do much of the nursery work and planting.”
Pollyanna is also part of the Billion Trees Campaign: “We are planting 2.4 million trees a year at the moment, and this has been funded by women and men like you and I donating small amounts ($5 to $20 a month).
“We have ‘tree brothers’,” she smiles, “men who support women, this organisation and donate to the cause.”
As Pollyanna shows me some of TreeSister’s work online, I notice that her computer search engine looks a bit different.
“This is Ecosia,” Pollyanna explains. “They channel funds from their clicks to planting trees, and their financial reports are live online, so I like the transparency. It also shows me how many trees I have helped to fund so far in the top corner…217, which is encouraging!”
Planting trees and protecting existing ones is, Pollyanna insists, not a ‘green’ issue.
“This is a human issue. We can’t sustain ourselves and our children if we don’t sustain our environment. I don’t want to say, ‘So, I screwed it all up, you deal with it’ to my kids.
“Trees are incredibly important: they filter pollution from the air, they draw up groundwater from deep in the earth which keeps our rivers and creeks flowing; they ensure more rainfall through seeding the clouds, and chemical compounds released from their leaves benefit human immune systems.
“Did you know that four people can be provided with oxygen from one old, large tree? We need the old trees – saplings take many years to produce and provide all these things, and we don’t have that time.”
In Palmwoods lately there has been growing concern amongst community members about the increase in development and the removal of trees, vegetation and, allegedly, wildlife corridors. And the displacement of native animals.
Pollyanna insists she is not against development if it is done sympathetically to the environment and character of the area, and there is decent infrastructure in place.
“If you stand on the lookout at Balmoral Ridge on the way to Maleny, you can see all those beautiful trees. They are the reason we have less risk of intense wildfires. The trees bring our rainfall and protect the land from overheating.
“Down in Palmwoods, if you walk past the tennis courts where the big fig trees are, you can feel the difference in temperature.”
Together with Palmwoods resident, Mel Stephens, Pollyanna has created a Facebook page, Save Our Green Corridors – Hinterland Alliance, to help people become aware of where the future is heading for this area and to have their say.
“In the South East Queensland Regional Plan, hinterland rail towns are earmarked as ‘accommodation solutions’. That means more development – and we need to make sure it is done right.”
Pollyanna believes in educating the young about the importance of trees and recently organised a tree planting for Montville State School on July 27 to mark National Schools Tree Day with Planet Ark.
“We are doing a gold coin donation for TreeSisters, a picnic on the oval, and the Year 6 students will learn how to plant trees with a member of local Barung Landcare.
“Those students will then teach the younger kids as part of their leadership skills; so everyone will plant a tree to create a little rainforest where some fig trees were damaged in a storm.”
Professional artist, Judith Sinnamon, who creates majestic and beautiful paintings of native trees, will also be holding a painting workshop for the students.
“Our region is fairly well vegetated at the moment,” says Pollyanna, “but it won’t be if we don’t act now. We need our trees and we need to protect our land, our wildlife, and our children’s future.”
For more information on TreeSisters, visit www.treesisters.org