In and Out in 2012

I’m finally catching up on some of my favorite blogs (and should note that I have an insane 69 blogs in my Google Reader feed, though they don’t all post frequently, and some of them ever anymore), and came across this great piece from Transition Voice on what’s really in and out for 2012.  A few highlights:

Out: Jobs.  In: Free Time.
Out: Lawns.  In: Edible Landscaping.
Out: Seth Godin.  In: Wendell Berry.
Out: Wii.  In: Climbing Trees.

A few I’d add for my own life, some of them reframed from items in the article’s list:

Out: Cell phones.  In: Handwritten letters.
Out: Screen time.  In: Garden time.
Out: Worrying.  In: Creating.

Whether 2012 brings the apocalypse, a dreadful natural disaster, even more political upheaval, or nothing negative of substance at all, I want to live it heartily, in real time, doing what I love and spending time with the many marvelous people I am lucky enough to call kindred spirits.

Words to Live By: Kallistos Ware

“That is what the world needs above all else: not people who “say prayers” with greater or lesser regularity, but people who are prayers.”

Kallistos Ware

How can my whole life be a prayer, a hymn to something greater than myself and any understanding of reality than I will ever truly grasp?

In the midst of the busy work that is often the to-do lists of day to day life as well as my general pessimism about the future of humanity and the planet as we know it, I often forget that even this one life I have to live is something holy.  Beyond any religion, beyond doctrine, beyond language even.  Mere existence is breathtaking, and my thanks should be living as prayer.

Live Blogging at the Clean Water Summit- Cool Resources

A number of great organizations and projects have been shared during my time at the Summit today.  Here are a few:

*i-Tree, tools from the Forest Service for assessing and managing community forests

*Minnesota Weather Almanac, a quirky, local, weather-specific cousin of Farmers Almanac

*Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and Capitol Region Watershed District, two great organizations that I work with on water and environmental issues

*Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a place you should absolutely visit if you haven’t already

*Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee, particularly their Guide to Creating an Effective Tree Preservation Ordinance

Now go hug a tree!

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.

Live Blogging at the Clean Water Summit- Intro

Biking twenty-seven miles to a summit about trees and clean water fueled by coffee made by my dear Benjamin and the first of the local apples for the season: what better way to spend a morning?

I’m at the Clean Water Summit today at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum out in Chaska.  The weather is perfect, the biking was marvelous (aside from the dreadfully busy Highway 5 and the turn off of the latter to get into the Arboretum), and I get be here for my community organizer work.

Mark Seeley, the climatologist providing the overview/introduction, is from St. Anthony Park.  Imagine that.  Connections are everywhere!

The first keynote speaker is speaking on the benefits of urban trees beyond beauty, and much to my delight he came up with a top ten list.

10. Oxygen production; however this is not really a huge benefit because there’s so much oxygen in the atmosphere already)
9. Products such as timber, food, fiber, ethanol (I’m glad this is at 9 because I really cannot stand for viewing trees primarily as a commodity)
8. Noise reduction; often this is psychological because it’s a visible buffer rather than audible- the soil is the true sound absorber
7. Wildlife habitat

Now we start getting to the good ones, the significant benefits…

6. UV radiation reduction; tree leaves absorb 95% of UV radiation, though the reduction under a single tree in a field is only 50% because of backscatter
5. Greenhouse gas reduction; trees remove carbon through growth but are really more of a stopgap method of reducing climate change- urban vegetation is a system that exists through time and space, and the carbon will be cycled back to the atmosphere in time
4. Water quality improvement; too much impervious surface is the biggest issue in regards to water quality in cities- trees affect this through rainfall interception, increased soil infiltration, evapotranspiration (say that three times fast), nutrient uptake, pollution removal, and leaf drop

Are you ready for the top three?

3. Air quality improvement; it’s all about the absorption ability of the stomates in the leaves- they actively remove pollution from the air, yo!
2. Socio-economic improvements; aesthetics, reduced crime rates (not directly from the trees but because a tree-filled space is a place that people want to be in, thus getting to know each other and supporting community), improved mental health and healing, property values, recreation
1. Cooler air temperatures/energy effects; this is the basis for #3,4 and 5 because temperatures drive all of those to some extent; planting of trees intentionally around houses directly affects energy use

More posts to come as we enter the afternoon sessions.