In the United States, one of the most beautiful places to visit is the Great Smoky Mountains. As one drives onto State Highway 441, there is an almost unearthly mist that speaks of sacred covenants with the land and recognition of the responsibility of stewardship. Trees and the continuing canopy are the main reason for the mists, but with continued development due to the human trend of “I must own it,” the “smoke” is being in altered in ways that mean the end of that indefinable beauty. Added with the lack of shade around the rest of the country, losing trees is one of the biggest reasons that people are beginning to feel that there is little relief from the stifling heat, which is only increasing. In response, people should do what they did during the Depression and start planting trees here, there, and everywhere.
First and foremost, human beings need to remember that the planet does not need us to survive. After the devastating wildfires in Australia, there was a series of rainfall that not only worked to restore prior conditions, but was the beginning of flooding in the planet’s attempt to restore the balance. While full restoration may take until the end of the year, nothing was required from human beings except to stop the fires that were out of control due to a lightning strike, i.e. nature caused a problem and nature would be able to fix it. Planting trees that were felled to promote development is an acknowledgment that human beings exist within an ecosystem, and have a responsibility to cooperate just like everything else, including the weather.
Growing food trees is also a recognition that people lack food security, and several states within the United States have at least one native tree that, if cared for, could feed anyone around it. Some people have argued that people would “steal,” but the notion of theft is only relevant if the purpose of consistent food being present was not to feed people. Putting food trees everywhere both feeds people and provides shade, making it safer for everyone who enjoys spending time outside. Making food public is an acknowledgment that everyone deserves to be fed.
The pandemic has made it clear that not everyone can stay inside and work online, so planting more shade acknowledges that the citizenry is devoted to making the outdoors safe for everyone, not just the elite. Some may argue that built shade could accomplish the same tasks, which is code for “We need more development.” However, walls and buildings do not clean the air, and the labor force has shifted from a commuting culture to a work-from-home culture during this era of accountability; less development is needed and more naturalization should occur. There is no scenario where people will be able to remain at home without leaving, so all sidewalks and neighborhoods should enhance both growing shade and gardening.
*Image taken from “Investing In Place” article dated August 29, 2019