Richard St. Barbe Baker – Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Saskatchewan – November 6, 1971
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and the Senate, I present to you, Richard St. Barbe Baker, founder of the Men of the Trees Society, forestry advisor and silviculturist-- one who has crusaded for more than 50 years against widespread destruction of trees and for their planting to improve environments essential to the well-being of mankind and other living creatures. It is fitting that the University should honour Mr. Baker during Saskatchewan Homecoming - for it was here as an affiliate of Emmanuel College that he recognized for the first time the dangers of wind erosion and the value of trees in preventing the formation of deserts and their advance into the grasslands and forests.
Invited to throw in his lot with students of Emmanuel, he arrived in Saskatoon in 1909 and became a member of the University class of 1910, the second class in its history. The subsequent three and one-half years in Saskatchewan were exciting and stimulating years for him â€”- homesteading south of Beaver Creek, becoming acquainted with the Indians, dealing for broncos which he broke and sold to help with his living expenses, building a shack on the University campus in which he lived with several of his classmates, conducting church services, and working as a lumber-jack near Prince Albert. He returned to England to complete his theological studies, but World War I prevented this. He enlisted and served with distinction in the Royal Horse and Field Artillery and Remounts.
His remarkable career as a silviculturist started in 1920 as Curator of Forests in Kenya. It was there that he founded “The Men of the Trees”, now a world society with a number of affiliates, the members dedicated to the maintenance and reclamation of forests. He has conducted forestry surveys in every Continent, advised numerous governments of forest management, and convened World Forest Charter Gatherings. He is recognized as a world leader in conservation through the planting of trees. One of his major concerns has been the reclamation of the Sahara Desert. In 1952 he organized and led an expedition across the Sahara and the bordering countries in equatorial Africa. This led eventually to a Sahara Reclamation Programme, agreed to by the neighbouring countries. I will mention only one more example of Mr. Baker’s life-long efforts to regenerate forests lost by thoughtless cutting, typical of his life-long devotion to the maintenance of our forests and their restoration. At the age of 74 he rode on horseback from the most northerly point in New Zealand to the most southerly, a distance of 1400 miles, lecturing at schools and to other groups on forest conservation.
He is the author of more than 20 books, all about trees. Several of these have been translated into other languages. To paraphrase from the forward to his autobiography (just published), they are written with gay touches of humour as well as deep sensitiveness, and contain much valuable information on their main theme as well as a quietly reasoned yet passionate plea for widespread revival of tree plantings in regions where this will transform barren spaces once more into fruitful homelands for future, more multitudinous generations of men.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Richard St. Barbe Baker and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Presented by B.W. Currie, Vice-President Research
Photograph: Photograph Collection, A-5281