Arbor Week should be about more than planting trees
Over time people come to realize what trees mean to them. It is a process of waking up to them. Many years ago I flew in a small bush plane back and forth from Ketchikan to the logging camp where I lived for a season. I could see forests for miles. I went to law school and was introduced to the idea that trees should have standing in order to assert their own best interest as opposed to the interests of the land owner or developer. I discovered that I could feed our babies with the sauce I made from apples on our gravenstein. One winter a limb fell — just in time — to keep our house heated. I learned the true meaning of a "windfall" believe you me. Since then I've put in many trees because I like to see their leaves, their smell, their longevity. I adore George Harrison and noted he wanted to be known as a pretty good musician and a tree planter. And as Vonnegut would say, so it goes.
When I went on council I came to understand the tension between the tree code and the development code. The fact is that there are a good number of dodges that somehow usually allow mature trees to be cut down to accommodate larger and larger footprints. It is as if a tree is an enemy of a sound tax base. It's on its own. It has no standing to have its interest considered. The little tree being planted if watered, if pruned, if not abused may well grow to be a large tree with a fine canopy. This isn't going to happen in the next 11 years, however, and that is when the fate of all of us — and especially our grandchildren — will be sealed. It is simply unfathomable that we would not acknowledge what kind of future we are relegating them to.
Yes, Lake Oswego does have trees, not all of them are healthy, and some of them will not be able to withstand the effects of climate change. Planting trees and caring for them certainly takes commitment. If we awaken in youngsters through Arbor Week that sense of affinity that we need between trees and us, then that is good. What we need to awaken, however, is how duped we adults are, how our blind faith in the free market, capitalism, property rights lead us to think that everything will come out in the long run if nothing is done. Maybe, but as Keynes pointed out — "In the long run we are all dead." The problem with that is we do not have all night and day to turn around the worst effects of climate change. And we're not going to do it by assuming that planting a few trees, passing out honors and cake is enough. We need trees in every stage of their life span. We need to be the ones to make exceptions to our dreams in order to allow the trees to live and support us.
To conclude: 7 years ago I planted some ginkgo trees which I was told would not reach their full growth for 60 years, an inch a year. I thought about that and told my grandkids that I would not see this in my lifetime. My granddaughter, Hazel, who was 9 at the time, was quiet for a second and then said, "But I will!" And may it be so.
Theresa Kohlhoff is a Lake Oswego city councilor
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.