National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Planting a better future

May 2016

by Paul Schlüter

Lutheran Landcare is a small group of dedicated individuals in Tasmania who plant trees in autumn, water and weed in summer, and propagate in spring.

This year we’ll plant another 100 trees and probably care for another 100 we planted last year. It’s time-consuming and slow, but it’s rewarding.

Initially, the group was formed in the early 1980s from members of St Peter’s Lutheran Church in suburban Hobart to remediate the grounds at the adjacent Eastside Lutheran College. Aiming to halt soil erosion and rid the surrounding public reserve of weeds, we’d organise tree planting days in winter with school children. Most of us had a background in botany, horticulture or forestry, so we knew a little bit about saving the planet. In the 1990s we’d organise small groups of school children and their teachers to help us weed and regenerate the surrounding bushland.

Now we’re a small group of Lutherans and their friends who care for land and vegetation, mostly working on a volunteer basis in the Tasmanian midlands, which has the greatest need in the state. It is surprising the enthusiasm that develops once a few people with a passion get together. These days our group hasn’t grown too much larger but the principles have remained the same. Working with councils is a key way to go and most are happy to involve themselves with improving the planet to further their green credentials. Most politicians regularly publish glossy pamphlets that are a good place to get funding information for future projects.

Bush regeneration is a really pleasant process that maximises diversity and returns bushland back to what it once was. However, it doesn’t necessarily increase biomass or the amount of photosynthesis, which is vital in keeping down the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is like putting a blanket around the world. It causes ice caps to melt, glaciers to retreat, sea levels to rise and land to disappear. Secondly, it causes animal habitats to change and species to become extinct. Sure, it is going to be nice having a slightly warmer Hobart, but it’s going to cause insurmountable problems for the human race!

In his book Back from the Brink, farmer Peter Andrews says the world needs more photosynthesis – in other words, it needs more plants. If everyone planted one sizeable tree a year, I’m sure Australia would be a better place. It’s also incredibly satisfying seeing a tree you’ve planted grow into something that is helping to save the planet!

Paul Schlüter trained as a botanist and completed a certificate of horticulture, and worked for public land agencies in Tasmania for 10 years. He is now a commercial pilot. In the 1950s, his father Albert Schlüter was a founding member of St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Hobart, where Paul attends.