Trees Planted to Promote Peace

Frances Johnson, Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, UT (September 29, 2005)- The clouds parted and the sun smiled down as dozens of people gathered to plant a tree in the name of peace. TreeUtah held the second annual International Peace Day event Sept. 21 at the International Peace Gardens, 1060 S. 1000 West. About 40 people braved the drizzle and gray skies to participate in the tree planting, words of peace and a sing-along around the bonfire.


TreeUtah held the second annual International Peace Day event Sept. 21 at the International Peace Gardens, 1060 S. 1000 West. About 40 people braved the drizzle and gray skies to participate in the tree planting, words of peace and a sing-along around the bonfire.
“The sun broke through just as we started planting the first tree,” said Art Warsoff, chairman on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization that was founded in 1990 to help save urban trees.
Alexandra Parvaz, a biology and environmental studies major at the University of Utah, was first introduced to TreeUtah through a volunteer project seven years ago.
“Through planting trees you’re connecting to the environment and building a healthy environment,” she said. “I just feel this is an essential practice for people to be involved in.”
And TreeUtah provides many opportunities. Through money from grants and corporations – TreeUtah just received a $20,000 grant from the National Association for Community Trees and Home Depot – TreeUtah has financed the planting of 250,000 trees all over the state, said executive director Justina Parsons-Bernstein. The organization offers educational outreach and workshops to teach people correct planting and care methods.
TreeUtah also is involved in an ecological restoration project. Last year more than 1,000 volunteers planted 40,000 seedlings along the Jordan River.
That was when Warsoff got involved with the organization. “It was an opportunity to do something for the environment on a wonderful fall day,” he said.
When his employer, American Express, asked if he would be interested in joining TreeUtah’s board of directors, Warsoff jumped at the chance. He is especially fond of the Peace Day planting.
“As you think about the concept of working in the community and working together, that’s what makes the peace tree planting so special,” he said.
The Peace Day event certainly brought the community together. There were college students in knit hats and hiking shoes, retired professionals and families. Everyone mingled easily over chips and salsa, cookies and plenty of hot coffee. Storyteller Joan Nabors entertained the crowd with a tale called “The Mountain That Loved a Bird,” about a bird named Joy who brings peace and happiness to a barren, lonely mountain.
Patrick Shea, an environmental attorney and former head of the Bureau of Land Management, shared a few words about peace under the Southwest Pavilion of the garden.
“I think trees provide a wonderful metaphor for hope,” Shea said. “The basis by which we can coexist is peace. The tree is a wonderful sign of unification.”
Ardean Watts, a retired music professor and longtime peace activist, also sees a strong connection between trees and peace.
“All growing things stress that the natural order of things is to share the earth,” Watts said. “In the end, a balance is obtained. I think that balance is a very good balance to lead us to peace.”
Watts, along with local musician Trace Wiren, led the group in a rousing sing-along of peace songs, including the Bob Dylan classic “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Wiren also sang some of her original music.
For Parsons-Bernstein, the night was a complete success.
“I think the feeling of the whole thing was very, very nice,” she said. “I like that such a variety of ages and communities came together and participated.”
Parsons-Bernstein also noted that it rained on the day of last year’s event as well, with the clouds breaking just in time for the trees to be planted.
“You look around and there were stormy clouds and it was nice and sunny just for us,” she said. “Maybe it’s symbolic of something.”
The three sequoias planted at this year’s event join the 11 planted last year, all of which survived the winter. Parsons-Bernstein said they will continue to add trees each year. Warsoff sees the ever-expanding grove as a gift to the future. For him, planting trees fulfills an old Jewish concept called “tikkun olam,” which means “repairing the world.”
“In many cases planting a tree, while you may get to enjoy it, it’s really the future, your children and grandchildren, people 20, 30, even 100 years from now who will enjoy what you did,” he said. “Whether you’re planting trees or taking care of them, you’re doing something for the future. That’s perhaps what makes trees different from other things we do. As I think about tree-planting, education and stewardship, it doesn’t get more basic than that.”
Read the full story: Trees Promote Peace (PDF)