Earth day reflections

My bike and tree on the MTA busThis Earth Day marked the 40th anniversary of my first tree planting. To celebrate, I decided to up my personal commitment by taking public transportation and my bike to various events across the city. Seeing so many community celebrations gave me a lot of encouragement and hope. I chose to be a living banner for the occasion, wearing my TreePeople tee-shirt and hauling a three-foot-tall oak tree in my bicycle saddle bag.

The first thing I did was put my bike on the front of the MTA bus (every bus in Southern California now has a bicycle rack). After I removed the tree from blocking the driver's view and brought it on board, he gave me a thumbs up and mumbled his approval for my Earth Day observance.

I transfered to another bus, and this time I left the tree on the bike attached to the front of the bus (pictured above) which generated a bit more Earth Day awareness buzz and thumbs up from passersby. And so onward to a sampling of LA's celebrations.

After I disembarked, my first ride was to the Mid-Wilshire Earth Day event, where I gave a short speech that high-fived the KYCC Korean Youth & Community Center who were distributing free trees for Million Trees LA,  the LA Bicycle Coalition, Avi Sills with his green photo booth, and a tip of the hat to Ron Milam from LA Eco-Village. I enjoyed walking through the Farmer's Market, where I ran into a couple of the event's organizers, Citizen Foresters Gary and Linda Russell. 

I had a short strategy session with the Russells about the greening of the Wilshire Center. I'm continually impressed with the success of their model, which involves a Business Improvement District (BID) that funds the greening and maintenance of Wilshire Blvd. medians and neighborhood green spaces.

I hopped back on the bike, grabbed two vegetable samosas from one of the Indo-European vendors, and rode off to the Metro station. Onto the Red Line with my bike onboard, transfered to the Blue Line to the Los Angeles Convention Center, from where I rode over to LA Live for the Avatar Earth Day celebration and Global "Home Tree" Benefit. At LA Live I found a City fair on the steps: recycling trucks and green technologies, LA Public Works Commissioner Cynthia Ruiz being interviewed by news crews, and other agency leaders huddling to plan (what I hope) are their next green initiatives.

Just as I was beginning to worry how I was going to safely stow my bike, change out of my riding clothes, find a land line for my interview with Warren Olney on KCRW's "Which Way LA," and then make it to the Avatar Earth Day Eco-Warrior training, Jennifer Reagan, the Sustainability Coordinator for AEG, and presenter at the upcoming Women In Green forum, came to the rescue. She swept me up, took me to the dressing room, allowed me to use her office for the radio call. I made it on stage just in time to address an audience of 5,000 students.

I told them that I started TreePeople when I was "just" a kid. My message was to introduce them to the hidden strengths and gifts of trees as our partners in healing the city, and the powerful actions of planting and caring for trees and becoming caretakers of their neighborhoods.

That evening, at the Global Home Tree Benefit, I was able to present the Quercus Agrifolia I'd transported across the city. This tree was grown from an acorn harvested as part of TreePeople's Mountain Forestry program. It turned out that the seedling was actually a mini native Home Tree. A much larger cousin of this Coast Live Oak served as Cameron's model for the Home Tree in the Avatar movie.

Looking back on this year's Earth Day, my greatest gratification was seeing all the communities celebrating it as their own, including the South LA event that featured gardening, cooking, yoga classes, etc. and the first ever Nuestra Tierra celebration at Olvera Street, the founding pueblo of our city.

Earth Day has clearly taken root. People are expressing the need for solutions and the hunger to engage. And most importantly, through their actions, they are showing willingness make changes to their own lifestyle and improve their health and the health of their communities.

Despite the fun, the "elephant in the room" question is, can we catalyze this broadening and culturally diverse base of energy into action that's at a scale and a pace to effectively mitigate climate change, so we can prevent the worse impacts?

I think we can.

Me and tree at Mid_Wilshire Earth Day event