We live near a vibrant metroparks system (Metroparks of Toledo) and only two hours from Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is why Mindy and I spend a lot of time out hiking and cycling our region. Being outdoors has become an essential part of our lives.
However, it is easier to get out and enjoy a park than it is to understand what you are enjoying. It is easier to walk through the trees than it is to know what kind of trees they are. We have people (botanists) for knowing that sort of thing, some might say, and we are free to just enjoy.
That may be a problem.
An article in yesterday’s New York Times—”Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness” by Gabriel Popkin—captures this problem well. It is a situation created by living in a world where we no longer have to know as much about trees as we once did. Our individual survival is not as dependent on it as it once was.
“There was a time,” he says, “when knowing your trees was a matter of life and death, because you needed to know which ones were strong enough to support a house and which ones would feed you through the winter. Now most of us walk around, to adapt a term devised by some botanists, tree blind.”
Popkin’s piece is a great read, offering a sort of existential take on why one should choose to learn about trees. One line from his argument stood out to me. “For me,” he says, “learning about trees is more about seeing, and knowing. It’s about not being a stranger in my own country.”
And that is, for me, important. If I call Ohio home, then I should know what is special about it. I should know something about this region’s other occupants—the trees and animals with which I share this space.
So, start on the road to recovery from tree blindness by reading this article over at the NY Times.
Photo credit: Brandon Withrow (Oak Openings Preserve).