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In a country where it’s an insult to be called a tree, is it a good thing to win the European tree of the year award?
There’s something ironic about the fact that the winner of this year’s European Tree of the Year Award is in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, to be called a tree or дърво is an insult that can be used variously to describe somebody who can’t dance or is clumsy (“ти си дърво” – you are a tree) to somebody who is stupid (“кух като дърво” – hollow as a tree). So it might not be immediately obvious that ‘tree of the year’ is an award rather than a criticism…
But an award it is, and despite being a relatively new competition, the award ceremony took place at the European Parliament in Brussels, under the patronage of the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik. Ten countries participated in the competition, and after 160 thousand votes were cast, the Old Elm in the city of Sliven, Bulgaria, was announced the winner.
Whilst “durvo” may be an insult in Bulgaria, it’s otherwise an apt location for the winner of this competition, given that the contest’s main aim is to draw the attention of the public to care about the environment. Last year in Bulgaria there were a number of small successful protests to save trees from being cut down for development, whilst the year before there were mass protests in Sofia against a Forestry Act that would allow developers to destroy woodlands in order to build ski runs and lifts.
The European Tree of the Year Award works by highlighting trees with interesting stories to tell and which hold community together. Nominations this year included the 1000-year old Oak at the Gate of the Dead at Offa’s Dyke in Wales, and Niel Gow’s Oak on the banks of the Tay in Scotland. These trees were nominated by the Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation society. It works to protect, create and restore woodland in the UK because “woods still provide people with places for quiet reflection and relaxation and help improve the health of our body and minds. They also still have economic benefits in the form of tourism and timber products.”
Unfortunately, trees and the environment still often come at the bottom of people’s charity giving lists. If you want to change that today, consider:
- Planting a tree as part of the National Forest project in England.
- Dedicating a tree in the UK through the woodland trust.
- Adopting an ancient tree in the UK through the wildlife trust.
- Donating fruit trees and agricultural training to a family in a developing country with World Vision.
Give away all of your money until your wallet is as hollow as a tree. That’s a compliment.