Saskatoon celebrates the Man of the Trees

Posted: 2014/07/10
Dr. Richard St. Barbe Baker at the age of 84.  Photo: University of Saskatchewan Archives

Dr. Richard St. Barbe Baker at the age of 84.
Photo: University of Saskatchewan Archives

On 17 June, the United Nations World Day to Combat Desertification, the Spiritual Assembly of Saskatoon, Sask. and Meewasin, a conservation agency, co-sponsored a dedication and presentation on the life of Dr. Richard St. Barbe Baker. Dr. St. Barbe Baker was known as the Man of the Trees for his efforts to promote tree planting in more than 100 different countries. A trail marker commemorating his life was placed near the last tree he planted shortly before his death in 1982 in Saskatoon. Junior youth at a one-day junior youth camp in Saskatoon also planted trees in honour of Dr. St. Barbe Baker.

Dr. St. Barbe Baker is also known for enlisting the participation of local people in tree planting, half a century before it became accepted practice. An Englishman, he spent three years in Saskatoon, Sask. as a young man, where he saw firsthand “the effects of the sudden disruption of a whole eco-system” brought on by unsustainable farming and logging practices. He learned of the Bahá’í Faith in 1924 and embraced it shortly thereafter, and in 1929 he approached Shoghi Effendi to become the first life member of his organization, The Men of the Trees in Palestine. He returned to Saskatoon, Sask. shortly before the end of his life and passed away there. The Universal House of Justice praised his “devotion to the beloved Guardian” and his “never ceasing efforts” for the best interests of mankind as a “meritorious example.”