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"When they go low, we go high" - My Thoughts on Trees & Politics

"When they go low, we go high"


Michelle Obama's DNC speech worked on me.

I've been reminded of the importance of scripting a positive story. I've been reminded of how important we are as role models for our children. I've been reminded that the stories we tell, about ourselves as individuals, families, and communities, matter.

This article in The Atlantic explains the field of Narrative Psychology by saying people use stories to make meaning. To biologists, we are storytelling animals. To humanists, things like language, literature, philosophy, and ethics, are disciplines of memory and imagination that tell us where we have been and help us imagine where we might go.


For example, here are two stories we might tell our kids:

The Emerald Ash Borer blight destroyed the tree canopy of Madison's historic downtown neighborhoods and was a huge loss for the environment, property owners, and general morale of the city.

OR


The Emerald Ash Borer blight gave city planners the opportunity to replace ash trees that had been trimmed to the point of ill-health since the increase of electric voltage in power lines and to diversify the canopy while moving power lines underground.



Ash Trees in Wisconsin

National politics are buzzing, but on a local level I'm following along with the Madison Canopy Street Trees Facebook page

Some local news coverage tells part of the story. Neighbors have been meeting regularly and are gaining attention. A petition asks city planners to change the policy to plant only short trees under power lines (sign it here). 

Two years ago, before the Emerald Ash Borer was spotted right downtown, Ash trees in city parks could be 'saved' from removal plans if private funds were raised to pay for treatment.

The story goes like this: with organized effort and local fundraising, the TLNA neighborhood came together to take care of the trees in Tenney and Reynolds Parks.

Unfortunately this adoption option is not available for trees in street terraces.

Efforts now are focused on changing the strict policy against tall trees in terraces with above ground power-lines, as well as localized fundraising to put lines underground in certain instances.


'Keep the Canopy. Bury the Lines' T-shirts are for sale for $25 from the Street Tree Committee.
Leave a comment if you would like to order one.

A friend who has been keeping me abreast of this developing story said in an email recently, "Best news in months! The Sustainable Madison Committee voted to create a sub-committee on Street Trees. It's still going to be a long, long, long haul, but this is a great step."

I love that hopefulness in her story. In a phone conversation, she told me that public momentum is building and it will force a policy change. I believe it, and I believe we all need to get behind this story until it is true.


Why Trees Now? Because...

-Trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon

-Trees reduce energy costs and create shade

-Tress absorb rainfall during storms

-Trees make us happy

-Trees make our city charming and livable

-We want to be part of a city that demonstrates wise leadership and creates forward-thinking policy


The new Street Tree Committee it meeting later this month. They are looking for neighborhood liaisons and people willing to write a story for the city where trees and people win. 

Right now, if you feel compelled, contact your Alder. Let him or her know you support changing policies and funding partial utility under-grounding in order to facilitate preserving and replanting canopy trees in our street terraces. And it always helps to go to your neighborhood council meetings. There you can also get ideas and learn more about what's happening in your neighborhood.

I understand that when we are faced with challenges, all we can control is our reaction and the way we shape the narrative as we go forward. So as it applies to both the remarkable 2016 presidential election and our remarkable urban forest, "When they go low, we go high." 

In both cases, it seems we are scripting the story for generations to come.


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