Cleaning Up The Forest

In the week since I last walked Hannah on one of the Greenways here in Nashville, there’s been some serious clean-up.  By clean-up, I mean that someone has come in and trimmed trees and left the branches on either side of the pathway, not that someone came by to pick up the trash that’s lying about despite the multiple trash cans that line the path.

Of course, I understand why it needed to happen – no one wants to be walking or riding a bike on the trail only to be met with a sharp stick in the eye.  Still, the feel has changed, the canopy that covered the trail is gone – there’s less shade and more open space, which makes it feel less like the forest and more like something manmade.  Which it is, of course, but I enjoyed how it felt to walk under the branches, especially when snow had fallen and it felt like I was going through a tunnel. 

It’s what we humans do – we alter the landscape to meet our needs.  We use fancy words for our intervention, like Sustainable Forest Management, which is “The stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.”  Because we obviously know how to do that better than God or Mother Nature. 

Perhaps it’s just me that is skeptical of our ability to manage something that – although we’ve studied for years – is more complex than we can understand despite our best attempts. 


When I lived in South Florida, I learned that in the early 1900’s, a species of tree called melaleuca was imported from Australia.  The plan was an ill conceived attempt to turn the Florida Everglades into a forest. Since the importation didn’t include any of the trees natural predators, the trees have grown unchecked and now cover an estimated 488,000 acres.  Today it’s a crime to possess, sell or transport the trees in Florida.  Not to worry, though, two predators of the melaleuca have been introduced and are snacking away at the trees.  I’m sure these two insects won’t cause any other problems as they make their home in South Florida.

Whenever I think about the all the stuff we’ve done to the earth, I think about two things, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (published in 1962) about the misuse of pesticides and it’s effects on songbirds and Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell (written in the late 60’s and recorded in 1970).  There are times when I get discouraged when I think about how much more damage has been done since the 1960’s, but then I remember that there are a lot of people and organizations out there that are working hard to make a difference like Blessed Earth.

It’s the weekend, so I don’t expect you to run out and save the world, but I do hope that you listen to this updated version of Big Yellow Taxi by Counting Crows and think about what you could do to take better care of our planet.

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