Finding harmony in the simple act of planting a tree

By Pepper Provenzano
Salt Lake City (April 20, 2007)- Communities small and large across America, driven by unprecedented population growth, are legitimately struggling to keep pace with essential services. Urban planners seek sustainable solutions for smart growth, antidotes to unchecked sprawl and tangible ways to save energy.


But we’ve learned there is no “magic bullet” to solve air, water and soil pollution in today’s urban planning. There is, however, the opportunity to combine old technology and new in an elemental approach that we all can support. And the time is right to turn our attention to something within our power to change, to re-knit the tissue that binds our society, to join together in a non-controversial, healing cause.
Like an acorn that becomes an oak, it begins in a very small way, with a simple act. When you plant a tree, you plant a legacy. Community trees, a powerful indicator species of a healthy urban environment, are no longer just nice to have. They are the only element of the urban infrastructure that actually appreciates in value while the rest depreciates.
Urban forestry, also called community forestry, combines strategic planting with environmental stewardship education to create green infrastructure for sustainable communities. It’s beginning to resonate, and the sound that urban planners are hearing is harmony.
It’s easy to embrace and fast to grow. It could help put environmentalists and political conservatives on the same page. Sure and steady, this movement is expanding its myriad canopy of benefits while bringing together a remarkable cross section of supporters from every segment of society. This isn’t rocket science. It’s elemental.
According to U.S. census figures, more than 80 percent of Americans live in urbanized areas. Coincidentally, an estimated 80 percent of community trees nationwide are on private property, so the public has a key role and personal responsibility for the environment in which most of us live.
The challenge, however, is to awaken the American public to support their local community forests. That’s why urban forestry groups are working together to combine the old technology of tree planting with new technology to reach community residents.
Conservative forecasters predict 9 billion people on this planet by 2025. The hamlets become villages, and the villages become towns, and one day we wake up and find that our little home town has become a city. In the process, the natural environment is profoundly altered by impervious surfaces, including blacktop, concrete and buildings that dominate the landscape.
Don Willeke, a Minnesota attorney, former American Forests president and champion of this cause for three decades, says “To hell with beautification. We plant trees for economic, social and environmental reasons.”
Politicians everywhere are experimenting with strategies for urban infrastructure, but few that everyone can agree on, fewer still that actually bring people together, and none so simple and painless as the simple act of planting a tree.
To read the full article, visit the Salt Lake Tribune.