Live Blogging at the Clean Water Summit- How Do We Advocate for Trees Anyway?

I’m at the afternoon ‘concurrent sessions’ and rather than just post notes from each, I thought I’d synthesize some of the most salient points (and of course my resulting opinions) from the collective wisdom shared.

It’s amazing how much of this information seems like (and often is acknowledged as) common sense, a similar situation to my attendance of Grazefest a couple of summers ago.  Give trees water and oxygen.  Plan for the future.  Don’t plan one tree in the middle of a concrete island in the city and expect it to thrive.  Etc.  Etc.

Other elements of tree planning and planting seem to be far more complex and expensive than necessary.  Photo and electronic analysis of canopy cover by very specific geographic area the main case in point (we’re looking at thousands of dollars here).  As my friend Charlene says, “couldn’t we just use that money to pay a handful of interns with the summer to go around and do it by hand?”  Relatively inexpensive workers* + learning = happiness for all.

It’s not that technology doesn’t have a place in advocacy, for trees or otherwise.  The easy dissemination of information has dramatically changed activism, frequently for the better, at least in instances where a quick response from a lot of people is crucial.  However, technology is not ever going to be the savior for any issue, trees or otherwise, because technology and the accompanying electronic communication often fail to hit the critical emotional thread that calls people to deep action and lifestyle change.

I am equally as suspicious of the long-term benefit of approaching tree advocacy from a commodity/consumer/financial perspective, particularly when trees are planted primarily to accumulate stormwater credits.  It’s similar to my feelings about carbon credits- when you build a system to make change that feeds purely off of personal interest rather than community need or obligation, it cannot help but be unsustainable.  The ‘me, myself and mine’ mentality of nearly every system in the United States (and many worldwide as we continue to export our society) will continue to set up an artificial zero-sum game, situations in which both sides believe someone must lose for someone else to gain.

As cliched as it might be, I’m going to invoke a bumper sticker I saw on the door of a neighborhood house recently: everyone does better when everyone does better.  The complex societal and environmental systems that support the lives of every being on this planet must be viewed holistically in order for people, watersheds, and trees to not only survive but thrive.

*I am in no way advising anyone to abuse the power of high school/college summer interns.  Please pay people adequately for the work they do.


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