Words to grow by…

Here I am speaking to a class of elementary school students underneath a Coast Live Oak

I love trees, and have spent many years caring for them. As you know from my book, “Trees I Have Known,” I am a Certified Arborist in addition to being an author. I don’t climb trees for a living anymore, but I carry with me the passion and experience that I learned during my days climbing trees.

There are, generally speaking, two schools of thought when it comes to humankind’s interaction with nature, and it holds true with trees as well. Preservation is one, and Conservation is the other.

Preservation tells us, “Look, but don’t touch.”

Conservation tells us, “Use it wisely.”

The problem with the Preservation mindset is that it tends to vilify mankind and elevate nature to a place of museum specimen. The problem with Conservation is the lack of accountability. I consider myself a Conservationist.

The challenge frequently comes at the interface, where softscape and hardscape come together, where natural and urban environments merge. How do we make the best choices? In nature, when a tree dies, it remains in place as a wildlife perch and a food source for animals and insects. In the city, when a tree dies, it often poses danger to people and property. During my years in practice, I encountered many Preservationists that would oppose the removal of the dead tree in the city, all in favor of the natural benefits the dead tree could provide. The Conservationist would assess the situation and deem the tree unsafe, yet would often advocate its replacement, sometimes in a space more suitable for a tree to grow.

Our children are being taught nowadays that people are ruining nature. I remember when my young son told me years ago, “Dad, I wish we didn’t have electricity! It is destroying the planet!” If this is the message that our children are being taught from any number of sources, how do we teach them balance and responsibility? How do we help them decide which REALLY is better: paper or plastic?

I would advocate that we need to be deliberate in how we process the information we are fed so we can, in turn, equip our children appropriately. Parents and educators, what does the command mean, to “cultivate” and “subdue the earth?” Gen 1:28, 2:15, 3:23

I’m certainly not dictating what that should look like, but I do like to challenge others to ponder and consider these things for themselves.

Here I am speaking to fellow arborists at a conference at Santiago Canyon College beneath a Sycamore

Environmentally-themed children’s books tend to portray the Preservationist viewpoint. Out of a desire to bring balance to the equation, I am working on a Conservation-themed children’s book series about trees and proper tree care. The books star Johnny Appleseed, who finds himself in challenging, real-world situations that require responsible decision-making. He has to weigh many factors in order to make the best decision. Ultimately, Johnny Appleseed models Stewardship as he faces different scenarios involving trees and people. I have 3 of 7 books written and plan to release them as a set. Stay tuned for updates on “The Further Adventures of Johnny Appleseed.”

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