The vision for this conference reaches back to when innovators in Japan and Korea were developing versions of forest wellness practices. From there, it has spread throughout the world. Through travel and correspondence, many of us--practitioners and researchers --have begun to build friendships and global networks of professional connections that we hope to strengthen. This conference will support a strong and diverse international movement, that encompasses many ways of bringing people and forests and other environments together for the well being of all. It is an invitation to come together and help build what has become a global movement.
Who we are
This conference is being produced by staff of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT), under the leadership of Amos Clifford, the Founder and CEO of ANFT. "We're seeing rapid growth in this field, affecting many regions of the planet. The work we are doing is essential. And it's essential that we support each other, and that we continue to learn together," says Clifford. "It's way too early to imagine that we know everything. There are a lot of beautiful things that people are doing in the world. We are most effective when we remain in inquiry and dialogue.
Pamela Wirth, an ANFT adviser and mentor, is in charge of conference production. She's supported by volunteers and ANFT office staff. At this conference you will met ANFT Trainers, guides, and mentors, and have many opportunities to interact with them.
But just as importantly, ANFT staff will have an opportunity to meet with you, and to learn from you. The ANFT team is united in our intention to contribute to building the global forest therapy network upon a foundation of friendships. We envision the movement growing like a healthy forest, as a rich ecosystem with many niches, some developed and others yet to appear, that when fully occupied create a vibrant ecology of support and growth.
We invite anyone who has a perspective on forest therapy to submit a proposal to present at the conference. We may not be able to accommodate all proposals, but we'll do our best to help this community create a diverse range of learning topics and experiences.
Thus, part of the answer to the question of who we are is: we are you. Please join us to make this so.
One of the challenges in an emerging field is coming to a shared definition of what we mean by terms such as "Forest Therapy." An array of efforts have been made to develop international and cross-cultural definitions, some of which are promising beginnings. However, so far there has not been a truly international dialogue and process for exploring key questions. Asking questions and thinking about them together, from many perspectives, culture, nations, and experiences, may be a very helpful process.
Thus we envision that part of our gathering will be dedicated to a conference of delegates from organizations that have earned status as contributors to this field. Delegates will engage in facilitated discussions around key questions. Toward the end of the conference, there will be a plenary session at which the results of the congress will be presented. These results may be part of a foundation for a future consensus document.
We envision this congress as being a first step on what will likely be a multi-year process. We expect spirited debate, perhaps at times contentious, but if we come with a spirit of humble inquiry--and if we remember that our work is essential to helping humanity negotiate the critical passage of our times--we may achieve a great work that supports and empowers us all.
One thing that is already emerging in Forest Therapy are traditions of celebration. People on Forest Therapy walks are singing to the forests and to each other, and sometimes to passers-by. Almost every day people are gathered in forests in many places, sitting in a circle to share tea brewed from forest plants. At our gathering in July, expect singing. Expect joy. Expect good food. Expect friendships. Expect light-hearted moments that offset our tendencies to sometimes take ourselves too seriously. Let's celebrate who we are and this beautiful work that we are privileged to do.