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© 2016 Niko Dellic
Growing up in suburban Mississauga, trees were not a primary interest of mine. As a teenager, I never had a particularly strong connection to trees or the outdoors, mostly because my neighbourhood was new and there weren’t many mature trees or parks I could ‘connect’ to.
 

The trees that did exist were far from inspiring but my neighbourhood made up for it by creating tons of parking space.

© 2017 Arsh Grewal

"I can't find any parking!" - No one 

 

When I attended Ryerson University as an Environment and Urban Sustainability student, my views on sustainability began to gradually and subconsciously change. I began to see the bigger picture when it came to urban parks. I began to understand the importance of trees in the urban environment. 

© 2016 Sabrina Guvenc

One of my favourite spots in Algonquin Park 

 

What really peaked my interest in nature was a school trip to Iceland and Netherlands. Before this trip, I had not travelled much; Niagara Falls was far enough for me. The plants and trees in Iceland were vastly different from the ones in Southern Ontario. The close proximity of Iceland to the North Pole causes low light conditions and low temperatures making it difficult for plants to grow. I was amazed at the various strategies they employed to survive the harsh Icelandic conditions. Arctic Willows for example are only about 30 cm in length but can be hundreds of years old. Iceland exposed me to different types of plants and trees, which made me curious about them. From this point on I became fascinated with vegetation.

© 2015 Sammy Tangir

The vegetation in Iceland is extremely sensitive, it can take decades for it to recover from trampling

© 2015 Sammy Tangir

Exploring Iceland 

 

One year after Iceland, I found myself working as an urban forest research assistant for Dr. Andrew Millward. This is where I learned how to identify trees and measure their health. In case you were wondering, many trees are not doing well in downtown Toronto.

© 2016 Niko Dellic

Measuring tree health at Ryerson University whilst looking official with a clipboard 

 

As I continue to learn about trees, my appreciation for them increases. When I think about urban forests I think of the metaphor “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” With climate change looming over our heads, we need to think more about the long term impacts our actions have. Planting trees can have positive long term impacts on your city and the world. So it’s never too late to plant trees! As an Education and Outreach Assistant, I look forward to working and learning from the incredibly enthusiastic LEAF staff for the next few months. 

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