There have been some big names featured by the annual Haig-Brown Lecture over the years, but Ken Blackburn, program manager, says this year’s featured speaker “kind of takes it to another level.”
Diana Beresford-Kroeger, internationally-renowned botanist, biochemist and bestselling author will take to the Tidemark Stage Nov. 1 to captivate, entertain and – most importantly – inspire.
Beresford-Kroeger is the last in a long line of Irish nobility, and has made it her goal in life to share centuries of wisdom passed down from generation to generation with the world, lest it be lost forever.
“Historically, my family have been scholars for about the last 3,000 years,” Beresford-Kroeger says. “We were the educators of the kings. When I became an orphan – everybody was killed off before I reached the age of 13 – I was supposed to have been sent into a Magdalene laundry (the Irish equivalent of Canada’s Residential Schools). For an orphan in Ireland, that’s what should have happened to me, but the judge was terrified to put me there because I come from aristocrats.”
Instead, Bereford-Kroeger says, she was given the option to be brought up under the traditional Brehon Laws, where she became the property of her extended family as a whole.
At school she was taught by the best university professors in the country while growing up with her uncle, a renowned chemist and famous athlete in Ireland, who had “over 10,000 first edition books in his house, and at night he would read to me physics or mathematics or theatre or poetry, and I would read it to him.
“So when I got to university, I got very high marks, as you can imagine, because I didn’t have much of a childhood, if you know what I mean,” she says with a laugh.
Then, during her summers, she would be taught the ancient laws, which centre around the natural world.
“I had a sacred trust put on me by the old people,” she says. “They told me I would be the last child of the ancient world. There would be no more after me, and they told me that I would have to bring all of this ancient knowledge into the new world. And I was faithful to that. I sucked up knowledge like you wouldn’t believe.”
And she’s spent a lifetime blending hard, modern science with those ancient laws, turning everything she takes in into wisdom to come up with ideas to change the world for the better.
“If we’re going to solve the problems of the world, we need to listen to every bloody bit of knowledge that we can,” she says.
Her presentation Nov. 1, entitled The Medicine of Trees, will focus on how our relationship with nature – forests in particular – affects our health.
“Every person in that room will get an idea of how they can protect their health by boosting up their immune system,” she says. “That’s very important, in my opinion, because what’s happening with climate change is that the air is changing, the ocean is changing and the food that we’re getting to our tables in changing and we need to protect ourselves.”
She also has a simple act that every one of us can do to counteract climate change: planting trees.
“If every person on the globe plants one tree per year for the next six years, we’ll pull the CO2 levels down into the 300s and it will buy us time,” she says. “Trees are carbon sinks. They are green mechanical machines that absorb carbon dioxide, and when I am done talking that talk that night, I will make damn sure that everybody understands what I’m saying and you will absolutely not think the same way about nature as you did when you entered the hall that night.”
What she won’t do, however, is use big words that you’ll have to look up when you get home – though she obviously could do that if she wanted to. She does have a handful of degrees in things like organic chemistry and has been elected to the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
“I’m speaking in general terms. If you want academic I could throw a bunch of equations up on the board,” she says, but that does nothing but further the idea that it’s the academics and the scientists who will save us, Beresford-Kroeger says.
“People think they’re being looked after by the politicians and they think they’re being looked after by the different agencies that we pay good taxpayers’ money for, and we are absolutely not. People need to know that they can do something. They need to know that there are solutions that we can all be part of – we can all do something. I really, honestly believe that.”
The presentation will also feature a screening of the film Call of the Forest, in which Beresford-Kroeger takes viewers on a tour of the world’s natural “chemical factories” including the ancient Raheen Wood of Ireland and what’s left of the ancient forests right here on Vancouver Island.
If this sounds like something you’d like to see and hear, tickets for the lecture are on sale now for only $15 each and can be purchased at the Tidemark Theatre Box Office or online at tidemarktheatre.com