I first met Glenn in 2016 during an orientation session for new volunteers where he sat at the back of ‘class’ but keenly answered many, if not all questions while making friends with so many in attendance! Since then, he has become an active and integral member of LEAF’s volunteer outreach team in York Region and helping at our community planting events. Reaching an amazing milestone of over 60 volunteer hours, Glenn is our latest Urban Forest Champion!
Tooba: How did you first become interested in the urban forest?
Glenn: I grew up in a treed neighborhood when Toronto was referred to as the green city. As a Forest Technician working in the north through the 1980's, I was keenly aware of the temperature difference of mature treed areas and open areas. When visiting my family home I noticed a gradual change in Toronto's tree canopy. It was thinning and the city was getting hotter. Moving back into an urban environment around 2000 I began planting trees in my yard and being proactive with regards to my neighborhoods trees, encouraging a proactive long term view of our trees.
Tooba: What led you to LEAF and can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done with LEAF since?
Glenn: I first saw an ad for LEAF after moving to Newmarket. After going to an information session, I have been at a number of public venues promoting LEAF’s Back Yard Tree Planting Program as well as large group tree planting days offering guidance with regards to tree planting for success.
Answering the public’s questions with regards to tree concerns has always been a part of who I am.
Tooba: What keeps you motivated? Can you share a defining moment you had while volunteering with LEAF?
Glenn: Seeing families from all walks of life from the very young to the older, individuals and families alike. This is so inspiring for me. LEAF is inspiring others to take ownership of not only the trees in their back yards but also the neighborhood.
Tooba: Why is the urban forest important to you and what message would you like to share with others to encourage them to become involved?
Glenn: We have planted our own forest of about 30 trees and 15-20 shrubs over the last 4-5 years in our own back yard. Our forest is coming into its own - incorporating bird feeders and houses - life is abundant on our property. The fox below has visited our neighborhood regularly this year.
Forests of all types are important- be it large scale or our urban forests. As a nature photographer and naturalist at heart, it is the micro forests that make a big impact on people’s health both physically and mentally. By planting one tree and a couple of native shrubs we improve our back yards for not only us, but the entire ecosystem. Take five minutes of your day 2-3 times a week to sit down in the shade of a tree, breathe deeply, focus on the sounds as they relate to your tree of choice. Do you notice a calming effect? I do.
Photographs taken by Carolyn Mancey, David Slaughter , Glenn Abuja, Lillian Natalizio, Sarah Vermeulen and Tooba Shakeel.
Glenn Abuja has spent most of his working life outdoors directly or indirectly in natural ecosystems. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience through professional and volunteer opportunities with others, while continuing to keep a little dirt under his fingernails.
Tooba Shakeel is an ISA certified arborist and LEAF’s Education and Outreach Coordinator