Can Books Save Trees?

Here at TreePeople, we believe nature and learning are intimately connected. In fact, studies have proven kids who spend time outside among trees have dramatically improved academic performance. Now this has come full circle— with a book helping trees!

Earlier this year, Cornelia Funke, an award-winning German illustrator and storyteller, best known for her young adult series, Inkheart, generously donated a 16th century copy of The Workes of Geffray Chaucer to TreePeople. Cornelia has been a longtime friend and supporter of ours, and was recently moved to generously give in the hope of seeing LA become a more shaded, green city.


As a writer, how does nature influence your work?

I believe that nature inspires everything. Our art, our beliefs, every expression of human culture. It reminds us that we are part of this world—at a time when we like to feed the illusion that humanity is completely independent.

The more our children grow up without nature, in an environment created by humans, the more they lose knowledge about the circle of life, the meaning of death, the longing to be part of the world.

What caused you to want to donate this book?

I love Los Angeles. I was not born here, I chose it as my home (or maybe it chose me!) and I want it to be a green city. The magic of LA is that I can live in a big city, with all it has to offer, and at the same time feel the presence of nature.

I am proud of the efforts LA is taking to deal with the drought by learning about native plants, gathering rain water, and becoming a city that is responsible with it’s resources. This city wishes to improve itself. Sometimes it feels like a child growing up, learning, making mistakes… but also doing glorious things.


We recently discovered that Chaucer was inducted as part of the forestry service in his late life. That feels pretty serendipitous! What do you think about that?

It is just another proof that his ghost in fact gave me the idea to donate the book. And probably also the ghost of my late husband, who was a book printer and always especially loved this Chaucer book.

Let’s save some trees with it. They both whispered!

You’re known for being an advocate of the power of books to encourage change in the world. What advice to you give to people who wish to influence their communities?

There is a saying of a German writer, Erich Kästner, whose books were burned by the Nazis, “Es gibt nichts gutes, ausser man tut es.” Which means, “There is nothing good, unless you do it.”

It is so easy for all of us to have a comfortable life in these times, indulging ourselves with a thousand spoiling pleasures. But that’s not what life should be about, in my opinion. It should be about growing, creating, adding to the wealth of this world—not with money, power, success, but with passion instead, and compassion. (Which by the way can be a lot of fun!)


We couldn’t agree more, Cornelia! We thank you for your kindness, generosity and wisdom!

The book will go to auction in New York later this month. Visit Bonham’s website to learn more about this unique treasure.

Feeling inspired to give? Visit our website to learn more about unique ways to give and create a climate-resilient LA.

By Erika Abdelatif

Erika Abdelatif is TreePeople’s Social Media and Digital Content Manager. When she isn't creating a climate-resilient LA via the Facebook, she's probably writing in a coffee shop, infesting the internet with memes, or watching an open mic.