Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Question of Trees

An Unusual Storm
The tree had to come down.

During the “Chi-clone” of late October, which would have qualified as a Category 3 storm had it been over the ocean, a large limb split off from the Norway maple at the back of my house and fell in slow motion across my neighbor’s deck. She, outside checking on her planters, froze with disbelief and nearly got killed. The next day a couple of friendly, energetic men came over, scrambled up in the branches, commenced cutting and within three hours the tree was felled. Oh, the sudden light lancing through the western windows of my house!

The tree didn’t leave the premises, however. Two stout sections of trunk sit by the fence, acting as a mini-windbreak for a newly planted young shrub while awaiting a future use, possibly as the supports for a bench. A third that widens at the base like an elephant’s foot now sits, a water-filled flowerpot saucer on top, in a sunny spot between the pagoda dogwood and the prairie patch, to the birds’ delight. The rest of the tree went in the chipper and landed in a pile on the parkway to be shoveled and raked level: one more spot of lawn reduction accomplished. Some of the chopped-up, still green leaves went on the compost heap.

This summer I had been, again, looking at the tree with a critical eye—large Norway maple, too close to the house, a hazard in increasingly-common extreme weather events, annoyingly bountiful seeds and seedlings. But I generally don’t take out trees and shrubs just ‘cuz. Twenty years ago, when I still believed horticulture industry recommendations, I got the tree as part of a giveaway after a gardening lecture. Thrilled to get a free tree, I stuck the whip in the ground and over years, took photos of growing tree and children together. Eventually it provided cooling shade--and also turned out to be a shallow-rooted water thief beneath which neither grass nor flowers would willingly grow. Why, I wondered, was it so widely touted?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yes We Are, Doing Something about Climate Change

 Warning: this post does not mention plants or gardens.

Response to climate change is gaining mass, I believe, regardless of our nationally elected leaders' passivity or outright obstructionism

I went to the Chicago Wilderness Conference* Thursday, and it was heartening to listen to the scientists, educators and ecologists discuss climate change data, and more importantly, to hear of the education and ecosystem projects going on in the Chicago region. People from going into the neighborhoods and schools, working through community centers and with policymakers. The atmosphere was one of “the debate is settled, this is what’s working, we haven’t much time, let’s do more.”

Then in the evening I went to the first big meeting in my town (partnering with another town) for our citizen-created sustainability plan which explicitly includes reducing emissions, planning landscaping to act as a carbon sink, reducing car use, managing water, accessing alternative energy and so on–all the things we need to be doing to help lower our collective carbon footprint while preparing for a low carbon future. And the village governments are on board with this.

We can’t wait for our legislature to pass laws: real change must come from the ground up.

*The only discordant note for me, and it's a big one: BP helps fund the CW alliance. Guilt money? To distract us silly environmentalists from BP's tar sands involvement? Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Does CW then agree to turn a blind eye to the Whiting, Indiana refinery? Which is "the 6th largest source of industrial pollution in the Chicago area, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune," and a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem. See this article in the Michigan Messenger.