trees, aka cyclical process

here’s what laura jane read so movingly tonight to midland town council. (btw, it went fab! lj did her usual awesomeness, wore a tee shirt with a tree on the front and the fitting tth logo on the back, and then rushed off with julie to see maude barlow.) is the council receptive? i dunno. but i hope they plant more and bulldoze less. back in winter, one of the councillors made a reference to ‘tweety birds’. he might as well call african-americans ‘niggers’–perhaps he does, but not in public. when the council respects birds and trees and nematodes, i can lay my burden down and dance. maybe i should start dancing anyway.

We’re here to ask that you think of trees, and everything, in a new way.

As elected representatives, you have to both follow the people’s wishes and also lead with new ideas.

Here’s a new idea.

The idea is that linear processes, such as mining and manufacturing, lead to extinction, whereas cyclical processes, such as recycling and retail, are forever renewing.

A linear process is based on a line.

It has a beginning and an end.

It’s unnatural.

A cyclical process, on the other hand, is based on a cycle.

It doesn’t really begin or end.

It can be very natural.

Nowhere are cyclical processes better seen than in trees.

But trees are no longer completing the cycle.

Instead of growing old and returning to the forest floor, trees are ending up in landfills or polluting the air.

Initiatives like Zero Waste Simcoe, the Severn Sound Environmental Association, and Sustainable Severn Sound understand this is a problem.

For example, a few years ago, Severn Sound was in big trouble.

But we came up with the Severn Sound Sustainability Plan, which the Town ratified, and we are making some key changes through Sustainable Severn Sound.

Trees are part of the Town’s sustainability plan.

Luke Raftis, the sustainability coordinator for Sustainable Severn Sound, writes that the main drivers of trees are ‘health promotion…, aesthetic value, [and] preserving & enhancing woodlands.’

He adds, ‘these are but a few of the reasons why trees are important.’

The organization Trees Canada notes that trees ‘help reverse our greenhouse gases’.

A healthier planet means a healthier us, which means less hospital visits.

A similar organization, Trees Ontario, reports that ‘during the 1980’s up to 30 million trees a year were planted on rural privately owned properties across Ontario. In the late 1990’s planting levels dropped to as low as 2 million trees per year. Experts tell us that in order to achieve 30 per cent forest cover and a healthy ecosystem we need to plant over a billion more trees.’

So what do trees have to do with cyclical thinking?

The old way of thinking is based on our incomplete understanding of fire.

We saw fire burn trees and leave ashes.

We learned to think waste, like ash, is okay.

We learned to think linearly.

In the beginning, we clever humans learned to control fire.

It cooked our food and warmed us and kept the dark at bay.

It still does, though we use fire in the form of electricity.

But we think of fire and of electricity based on linear thinking, which leaves waste.

We discovered storehouses of ancient trees in the forms of coal and oil which are nearly perfect, portable, burnable energy, but we still leave waste.

We powered our Industrial Revolution with coal and oil and invented technological marvels like the plane and the car.

And problems like smog and emphysema … and climate change.

Now we’ve reached the end of our linear rope.

Linear thinking is one-way thinking, like driving down a dead-end street, like how we think of fire which burns and dies out, taking away heat and light, and leaving behind ash.

David Suzuki says we need a new way of thinking to solve old problems.

The cyclical way of thinking takes a tree too but seeks to use all of it, leaving no waste, no lost opportunity, no problems.

Treasure Day, the Blue Box, the Green Bin, and the FIT and Micro-FIT programs are fresh ideas and evidence of cyclical thinking at the town, county, and province levels.

Cyclical thinking is two-way thinking, mutual thinking, like the Golden Rule, which we all grew up with.


We know this.

Nothing new.

Think of the voyage of The Titanic–linear thinking is a one-way trip to the bottom.

It’s unbalanced; it’s unnatural.

It’s a fix; it fails to restore.

Cyclical thinking, on the other hand, restores the balance.

Trees are a part of the balance that restores us.

We are starting to rethink our ways and rebuild society.

We need to cut down trees, yes–for furniture, for paper, for houses.

But we also really, really need living trees for cleaning, for breathing, for food.

We need trees for playing, for the mind.

Unfortunately, trees don’t grow overnight.

They take decades.

In human hands they take planning.

They take vision, like the vision a century ago that beheld Little Lake Park.

And more than reducing, reusing, and recycling, our challenges today take rethinking.

So, what can we do?

Well, obviously we are stewards of existing trees.

For the future we need to plant more trees, and not just at Little Lake Park.

We need to plant shade trees down King, and Hugel, and Midland Av, and Yonge, that cool us in the summer and break the wind in winter, that beautify our town, that attract birds and bees and tourists and ratepayers.

We need to plant edible trees in gardens and share the bounty with those less fortunate.

But more importantly, we need to plant ideas.

When the Girl Guides plant trees in Little Lake Park, they are really planting ideas, ideas that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.

We need to get across the idea that there is no such thing as a line that generates cost-free, limitless waste, that in a circle, your waste is someone else’s food or money.

Fresh ideas have made an impact before.

For example, the writings in the original Greek of Aristotle were lost to the West for many centuries, but preserved in the East.

When they were rediscovered, an intellectual flowering took place.

What, then, do we stand to gain from other thinkers, or from other cultures, or from nature itself?

When you have the chance to plant a tree, or if you have to bulldoze one or cut it down, may you remember linear thinking.

May the circle be unbroken.

Thank you.

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