Arbor Day, Earth Day & Talking Trees

In April of 2021 Earth Day falls on the 22nd and Arbor Day on the 30th. Often these observances come and go without much fanfare. Credit to those who make an effort during that week at learning about Mother Nature and environmental concerns and causes, and more so to those who take action toward those matters. I suspect, though, that anyone who puts forth energy on those days is probably perennially active in the realm. We could use more of our species amplifying awareness and application. Teachers obviously possess early and impactful influence on generations of the future and we should definitely focus more on protecting nature than Valentine's or Easter, which offer little else but entertainment and social significance.

Visit to discover Earth Day's origins and significant achievements. Notably, the environmental movement spread from an oil spill in Santa Barbara to local campus teach-ins in 1970 to "mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage" in 1990 to what it is now: "Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes." This timeline demonstrates the power of any grassroots movement as it evolves to full-scale global concern as well as the enduring and growing impact of what may be our most important societal interest.

For your advanced readers you might consider the book credited for catalysing environmental awareness, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Arbor Day, dedicated to the importance and planting of trees, dates further back to 1872. For a brief history visit The Arbor Day website offers great resources for executing observance by planting trees also.

"Today Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states...The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow to provide us with clean air and water, cooling shade, habitat for wildlife, healthier communities, and endless natural beauty — all for a better tomorrow." It's a great point. Arbor Day spreads hope for the future and calls us to a simple action rather than offering remembrance for something in the past.

Again for advanced readers I recommend The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

The author began in Germany as a forester, felling trees and planting new seedlings. Later he moved into an old growth forest tourism role for one of Germany's national parks. As he walked among the trees with his visitors he began noticing particularities about his forest. Eventually he became the caretaker of that specific forest, home to hundreds of species living symbiotically. That is where his study of trees through observation kicked into high gear.

As the book progresses Mr. Wohlleben describes trees in terms of their social structure and processes. It reads almost science fiction-esque, sometimes sounding like the tree shepherds from The Lord of the Rings called Ents. They demonstrate nearly human traits and as a reader you recognize the spirit within them that we so candidly harvest. He details their friendships, language, love and etiquette.


The book promotes no forceful agenda. The author is simply describing the perspective-altering observations he has made walking among the trees in an ancient forest. Of course his intention is to deliver us to this perspective so that we may be more considerate of our choices and their consequences. We're a pretty divided nation on environmental concerns, and I've been swayed repeatedly in both directions. I don't believe in the doomsday view that we are killing the Earth for all living things, and I don't believe we are free to roll along consuming at our whim. I just believe in being conscientious about all choices. I'm particular about how much toilet paper I use, about unneccesssary packaging (I refuse to order takeout for this reason), about how much gas I use, about buying things that I won't use. I dislike consumption simply for the inefficiency of it, and when you start noticing how absentmindedly people give and use "disposable" products you just can't unsee it. The Hidden Life of Trees is a hopeful book about walking in the woods and recognizing the trees as the sentient beings they are, and Arbor Day is about contributing to the improvement of nature for the future, and Earth Day is about being conscious of our impact on our home planet. These are optimistic and hopeful observances, ripe for educational utility and a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the world and each other. What a breath of fresh air compared to the doom and gloom received most days in the newspaper. Let's embrace it this year after being segregated and stuck inside for so long!!

Ike Martinson
Ike is addicted to life in the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys the mountains, the lakes, the food, the people and all the seasons. He is an amateur chef, a commercial pilot and a terrible painter.

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