Verena Guran-Fierz

Founder and President - Reforestation World Association

Restoration, Switzerland, Urban green

Verena Guran-Fierz is the founder of Reforestation World. A musician by training, with a rich life dedicated to the arts, she transformed her personal engagement into a broader initiative, to inspire others to act and help restoring trees and the beauty of Nature all around the world.

1. What motivated you to start reforestationworld.org?

It started in 2003 with an article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung about “climate sinks”, areas where more CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere than released in to it. They were all forests. My thought, which I wrote In a letter to the newspaper, was: Why don’t we plant as many forests as possible, instead of just trying to forbide CO2?
This letter to the editor introduced me to new.Tree, my first reforestation organization from Zug, which can also be found in the reforestationworld directory.

Of course, there have always been many good reasons to protect and plant forests. Biodiversity, now a global issue, is affected, as is the supply of clean water. The quality and quantity of usable soil is preserved in forests, and they provide protection from extreme weather such as droughts, floods and storms.

Imagine the connections between rivers and trees: the mountains, covered with trees thousands of years old, have been and are being deforested. The stripped soil is exposed to erosion and is washed away. It ends up in the valleys, in the riverbeds, clogging and dirtying them. New, clean water is rarely added, as the river banks are also deforested. Nevertheless, millions of people now live along large rivers, while filling them with waste. During the rainy season, the annual catastrophe is inevitable. The rivers overflow their banks because they can no longer drain, full of the waste of daily life, the remains of destroyed dwellings, drowned people, animals and lots of plastic – all of which ends up in the sea.

The impact of trees on temperature is also important, especially in the context of global warming. Evaporation from trees cools and forms clouds, which is an additional benefit to the actual shade provided by trees. The difference between the temperature in a dense forest and an open, asphalted area or an area that has become a desert is at least 25°C.

Storing CO2 in cement or only driving around with electricity, etc., has no direct influence on the temperature of the world. In addition, CO2 is part of the material cycle and is converted by trees into vital oxygen and plant material by means of photosynthesis. Only in this system can humans and animals, all of which consume oxygen continuously, exist.

The man-made solution is not always the best; it would be wiser and cheaper to accept nature’s gifts and nurture them.

“From Desert to paradise” illustrations by Verena Guran-Fierz
“From Desert to paradise” illustrations by Verena Guran-Fierz
2. Has your personal and professional path influenced your interest in the subject?

My professional life as a musician was of course not directly connected to trees, except that a viola is made of fine wood. But my mother was a painter and an admirer of natural beauty. Beauty, although many people deny its existence, was and is for me a driving force for many activities: drawing, gardening, writing poetry, cooking, dancing or making music.

An uncle on my mother’s side also planted a large forest around his spinning mill near Barcelona, to ensure enough water for the factory’s turbines, as this was located in a river bend. The factory has been shut down, but the fir forest still lives in the middle of the maquis and has never withered so far.

In Spain and southern France, as it had happened in southern Italy and Greece before – indeed the entire Mediterranean region – the compact forests that arose after the Ice Age were destroyed. Mostly for the construction of warships and merchant ships, but also through grazing and other forms of agriculture. I learned that in grammar school. These forests will no longer grow back automatically, but they can be restored.

Now that the Sahel region and the entire Horn of Africa, among others, have been deforested, the heat is flowing to us unchecked.

In Switzerland, the over-exploitation of nature is as blatant as in Africa, Indonesia, India or South America etc., with different nuances in each case. The protection of the forest, of which we Swiss were so proud, was only possible when the population was growing because electricity and coal were available. It has been sacrificed again to the insatiable demand for energy. And still, the majority of the world’s growing population cooks with wood, which keeps on causing the devastation described above.

3. Where do you see potential for improving the situation?

We can’t just keep taking from nature. We have lost respect for it because of all the technology. With reforestation, we have an worldwide opportunity to restore the basis of life to people, animals and plants, which gratefully return.

Agroforestry and regulated pasture farming are examples for so-called “third world” countries. So are water retention basins, where it rains for four months without interruption.

In so-called developed countries, the problems are of course different, and you can find examples of solutions in Swiss projects in reforestationworld.

What unites us all, wherever we live, is the responsibility for this one place that we have been given, to keep the connections in Nature always before our eyes and also to enjoy them.

If there were more swallows and other migratory birds again, for example, we would be happier too. Now I hardly hear any birds singing in Zumikon in Spring. SILENT SPRING. Migratory birds have always been global and suffer particularly from the destruction of half of the continent.

Go for a walk, even in the city, and learn to look at trees. Where could I plant one?