Weed Wanderings Herbal eZine with Susun Weed
November 2004
Volume 4 Number 11
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What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Empower Yourself...
Trees Are Healing The Earth
by Kirsten Anderberg

Be The Change by Suzanne Cheryl Gardner

TreePeople Say Trees Are Like Acupuncture Needles Healing The Earth
by Kirsten Anderberg

In a landscape with too much concrete, "TreePeople," based in Los Angeles, are reversing trends started with the "ticky-tacky" tract housing in the San Fernando Valley basin in the 1950's and 1960's. They are beginning to unearth the living ecosystem hidden underneath. For 30 years, a local environmental nonprofit group dubbed "TreePeople," has provided an international model for community urban forestry organizations. Their hands-on, grassroots approach helps our environment by cleaning our air and water, reducing the heat the city is generating, and improving living habitats for animals and children. Their work also helps repair damaged burn areas, helping to prevent landslides as well as floods. TreePeople are facilitating a natural beautification and ecosystem restoration within the city, as well as supporting empowerment, through investments in our own local communities.

The benefits that TreePeople actions bestow upon local areas are many. And their model can be used in urban areas across America. The San Fernando Valley, for instance, (which is located in Los Angeles County), is 5-10 degrees hotter than rural areas outside the city with trees and dirt, reaching a scorching 100+ degrees in summers nowadays. When the Valley was full of orchards, not houses and freeways, it was cooler. Additionally, a house with properly positioned trees will have shade, using less fossil fuel on air conditioning in summer, yet will also allow winter sun to hit the house, reducing heating fuel consumption. Concrete cannot absorb water, yet dirt with healthy trees can, thus TreePeople's projects help prevent flooding. After fires ravage lands, landslides often occur. TreePeople replant trees in fire restoration and erosion prevention projects to stabilize local hillsides. Trees reduce air pollution by increasing oxygen production and providing CO2 absorption. Additionally, community-based trees do not routinely suffer from neglect or vandalism as they are community investments.

As TreePeople increase the city's green space, they are also changing schools' playgrounds from barren concrete pens that look like jail yards, into places with green grass and trees for shade. They also set up living horticulture classrooms outdoors. TreePeople's recycling campaign in the Los Angeles elementary schools was so effective that parents began complaining to the schools that their kids were badgering them into recycling! By giving local communities the information and resources they need to beautify their own schools, there is a resultant humanization occurring in the city. It is unifying our neighborhoods to get out and work together for a better world.

Promoting "food security by increasing the self-reliance of low-income communities," TreePeople teach horticulture classes, as well as providing nutritious fruit trees, to areas with the greatest economic needs in the Los Angeles area. *I recommend this example be followed in every single low-income urban area in America today.* TreePeople promote bare root fruit trees, some of which can bare fruit within 6 months. These trees are cheap, easy to care for, and can produce an ample amount of fruit for up to 40 years. Every year TreePeople buy 3,000 apple, plum, peach, apricot, fig and nectarine trees. They work with food banks, community centers, and religious organizations to help the residents plant the trees to secure future food for their local neighborhoods. Working to alleviate hunger, TreePeople have distributed 50,000 trees that locally produce tons of fruit each year for some of Los Angeles' most barren neighborhoods. And in the 1980's, TreePeople flew 6,000 fruit trees to 6 African nations, teaching them about tree care and helping fight rampant famine. Due to their superior work, the survival rate for those trees in Africa was an almost unprecedented 80 to 90%. Studies show that government-planted trees on Los Angeles streets have a 30% survival rate. Trees planted with the assistance of TreePeople have a 93% survival rate, due to the education of the community about how to take care of their trees and the community involvement with the trees.

The TreePeople website http://www.treepeople.com has a downloadable "Home Forester worksheet." In "Step One" of their Home Forester worksheet, TreePeople ask you to "Explore your property to discover the remnants of the living ecosystem." They ask questions about the soil, how much of it is unpaved, are there plants and bugs, has there been chemical spraying in the past? They ask what happens when rain falls. Do the soil, trees, lawns and gardens absorb the water? How much runs off site and what does it take with it in the way of lawn fertilizers, oil stains on the driveway, etc. They ask you to assess the trees on your property. Are they planted in strategic locations, do they capture rain, do they shade the south and west walls facing the sun, do they allow winter sun to warm the home, are they beautiful and fragrant, do they provide fruit, do they attract wildlife, can children play safely in them, etc.? "Step One" also asks you to assess your use of urban forest products, such as using fallen leaves and branches, as well as lawn clippings, as mulch. They ask you to look at how much "green waste" you produce each year and ask you to look at where that green waste ends up, in a landfill, or recycled to be used to make your locale greener.

"Step Two" of the TreePeople's Home Forester worksheet asks us to "Look for places where you can remove concrete to alter the landscape or hardscape to repair and restore nature's interrupted systems." They ask you to find places to remove concrete or asphalt to make space for trees, soil and plants, and they ask you to find local trees and garden beds to mulch with your green waste to recycle nutrients and retain water. They discuss using cisterns for rain collection and the use of gray water from washing machines, showers and sinks for irrigation use.

"Step Three" of the worksheet asks for an assessment of benefits that the urban reforestation would give the community. They ask you to assess your local flood threats, and also to follow where your waste water goes.to see if it is contributing to pollution downstream. They ask you to assess the cost of importing water from distant lands to your area. They ask you assess the local landfill situation to see if waste could be reduced by educational recycling programs. They ask you to assess air pollution and air quality issues due to generation of electricity, as well as issues of global warming. Then they ask you to prioritize the things you could do to provide the greatest impacts with the least investments, on your own property as well as the neighborhood properties, for improvements to life quality.

TreePeople stress the fact that urban reforestation is not easy. The task requires "great planning, thorough paperwork, skilled recruitment, tact, knowledge of how trees and city agencies work, negotiating ability, fundraising talent and, sometimes, conflict resolution." TreePeople advocate planting "the right tree in the right place." They recommend groups look at strategic tree placement for shading, they recommend proper tree choices for the site's soil, lighting, etc., as well as discussing proper foresight regarding future maintenance issues. They say that sometimes the right trees are native trees, but sometimes the landscape has changed so drastically that the native trees of a century ago are not surviving as well in the new environment. And in those cases, specifics will be taken into account and the right tree picked for the site's irrigation, proximity to traffic, etc. And no matter how well chosen, trees will die if not properly cared for. TreePeople take maintenance very seriously and always teach communities how to care for the trees that are planted.

The humble beginnings of TreePeople is an inspirational one, one that can encourage us to look around our own communities for resources that can better our own lives today. Andy Lipkis started the California Conservation Project in the 1970's by simply asking the California Dept. of Forestry for its surplus of 8,000 extra seedlings. Later he tied the Air Quality Management Plan and the 1970 Clean Air Act in with the planting efforts. When the City of Los Angeles estimated it would cost "$200 million and would take 20 years" to accomplish some of the reforestation goals set forth, Lipkis and the TreePeople offered to do the plantings, and to meet the goals, in three years. Are there surplus trees in your area's Foresty Dept.? Are there ways you could get funding for urban reforestation, by explaining the benefits to the community as a whole, therein? Could you use the school systems for recycling education? Is there a way to collectively reduce green waste and use gray water in your community? All of these are things you and I can look into today to better our local communities. And most importantly, could you help spearhead a planting of fruit trees in your local low-income neighborhoods? All of these things are within our reach.

TreePeople does not have a national affiliate, and is a local Los Angeles organization. But TreePeople have served as an inspirational model for dozens of groups around the world. The founder of TreePeople, Andy Lipkis, is also on the National Tree Trust http://www.nationaltreetrust.org which "provides resources and funding to local volunteer groups across the country." TreePeople is also involved with both California Releaf http://www.nationaltreetrust.org/releaf/, a network of local California tree groups, and the Alliance for Community Trees http://www.actrees.org , a national support network. Although TreePeople do not help people plant trees in states outside California, they recommend visiting http://www.treelink.org for a wealth of information about tree groups across the nation.

By using urban reforestation and education techniques pioneered by TreePeople, we can not only lower the temperature in cities by 5-10 degrees, but we can also reduce our dependence on imported water while still maintaining green spaces. We can reduce pollution in the water and the air, we can reduce floods and landslides, as well as reducing the burden upon our landfills. We can decrease our dependence on energy for heating and cooling our houses by utilizing proper tree placement and we can not only beautify our school playgrounds, streets and neighborhoods, but we can feed the hungry in the inner city as well. As you can see, trees have a greater influence on things than many realize. By becoming aware of our surroundings, and working together, we can take part in issues such as local waste management, as well as getting connected with our own city streets in a hand-on fashion.

Kirsten Anderberg is the mother of a draft-aged son, an activist, feminist comedian, and prolific journalist/writer. She discusses police accountability, midwifery, accommodating vegetarians at winter holiday events, teens' rights to political dissent, street performance, medicinal uses of stinging nettles, and much more. You can find her articles in Infoshop.org, Alternative Press Review (altpr.org), Utne.com, Zmag.org, Adbusters Magazine, Hipmama.com, Slingshot Zine and at her website www.kirstenanderberg.com



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