Nina Bassuk describes the way she'll start off with a new group of students: asking them to draw a simple picture of a tree. In this anecdote all of the usual suspects show up - trunks, branches, leaves and even a bird or two to represent wildlife. “But,” she says, “what is glaringly absent from almost all of these tree portraits are the life-supporting root systems.” Bassuk, Professor and Program Leader of the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University, goes on to explain what is wrong with these pictures - and what an eye-opening experience it is.
Noel Harding is a Canadian artist with a colourful career spanning over 30 years. You may recognize his large-scale pieces of public art as infrastructure, such as Windsor’s living bridges, Toronto’s free standing wetlands, and Mississauga’s trees planters growing three stories above city hall (represented Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but never re-erected). His work examines the intersection of complex social, environmental and urban planning issues and during the Q and A, I asked him to define his form of functional social environmental design.
Starting your own urban forest initiative – or any community initiative for that matter – can be a rewarding learning process. Working with LEAF’s stewardship programs, I regularly get to hear about the amazing initiatives our Tree Tenders Volunteer Training Program graduates and like-minded individuals start up.
The keynote speaker at the Ontario Urban Forest Council (OUFC) conference last week was Cecil Konijnendijk, a professor from the University of Copenhagen. He gave a talk on urban forestry in Europe - something I was very interested in because it was a chance to see what the Europeans are doing differently than we are here in North America. It was also a chance to gain ideas of where we can improve canopy cover in our own urban environments.
On Thursday, November 3rd, urban forestry enthusiasts gathered at the Toronto Botanical Gardens for the Spreading Roots conference organized by the OUFC and TBG. After procuring coffee and continental breakfast and saying hello to friends and colleagues, we all took our seats and settled in for two days of stimulating tree-related talks.