Reflecting upon “The right tree in the right place”

27 March 2023: At this event, we spend an afternoon at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where we through creative and scientific means explored the role of trees in the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse. 

This Green Tease event took place at the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and provided an opportunity for creative practitioners and environmentalists to learn and make connections on sustainable tree planting in Scotland. The event started with Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes RBGE and artist Keg de Souza introducing the exhibition Shipping Roots followed by a guided walk by Dr Max Coleman before we all met at the Botanics Cottage to discuss sustainable forestry and the role of creative practice in ensuring this. The discussions were informed by presentations from Pat Snowden from Scottish Forestry and ecological artist Dr Cathy Fitzgerald. This event was organised in collaboration with the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh.  


Keg de Souza. Artist of Goan ancestry who lives and works on Gadigal land and explores the politics of space through temporary architecture, food, mapping and dialogues. Until the end of October Keg de Souza will be in residence at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh researching their collections and tracing colonial legacies through the movement of plants between the UK, India and Australia. Keg de Souza spoke about the exhibition Shipping Roots, which explores how plants have moved through the British Empire including eucalyptus, prickly pear and many seedlings which came to the UK in sheep fleeces. The exhibition highlights the role of art in linking the story of plants, history, and people in a physical space, opening up dialogues and imaginaries that are critical in finding solutions to the climate crisis. 

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Dr Max Coleman. Science Communicator for the Botanics. Max Coleman has had an interest in trees for as long as he can remember. He worked for a number of years in nature conservation, and developed an interest in natural forests and the processes that operate within them. As a science communicator, he aims to make plant science accessible and engaging. Max Coleman guided us through how and why a shift to natural regeneration is positive for plants, people and planet. 

Reflecting upon "The right tree in the right place”

Emma Nicolson. Head of Creative Programmes was appointed to RBGE in December 2018. She formerly served as founding director of ATLAS Arts based in the Isle of Skye and spent three years as a senior manager for Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Emma has been actively involved in the arts for over twenty years working with leading cultural institutions across the world. Emma Nicolson introduced the new exhibition and spoke about RBGE work with artists in residence and their determination to work with ecological issues.  

Pat Snowden. Head of Economics and Woodland Carbon Code at Scottish Forestry. Pat Snowden covered research on CO2 removals generated by planting different types of woodland and provided background to the Woodland Carbon Code, which is the UK’s government-backed, voluntary carbon market standard that helps companies become carbon neutral. He highlighted how Scotland is creating 75 % of all new woodland in the UK and how this is an effective carbon sink, and that the government is planting at least 4000 ha each year (!) of native woodland. 

Dr Cathy Fitzgerald. Ecological artist based in Ireland originally from Aotearoa/New Zealand. She works for a sustainable behaviour change through long-term ecological ‘ecosocial art practices’ and has developed the project “The Hollywood Forest Story” turning a conifer plantation destined for clear-fell into a permanent, species-rich productive forest using new continuous cover forestry methods. Cathy Fitzgerald shared her work exploring sustainable forestry through art practice with a focus on the consequences following the monoculture that comes from clear-fell forestry. She argued, that we must learn from Indigenous peoples that successfully protect 85% of the Earth’s remaining biodiversity regions. You can watch the full recording below (very recommended).  

Discussions and visualisations 

Following these inspiring presentations people went to discuss the questions: How can we ensure more sustainable forestry in Scotland, and how can creative practice and art contribute to that?   

To sum up these discussions we had Artist and designer Alice Dansey-Wright visualize them. You can see the result here.  

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