February 1, 2007
The city branches into the Tu B’Shevat business to make L.A. naturally beautiful
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"A tree is this living being that is not that dissimilar from them in terms of vulnerability and power," said Andy Lipkis, president and founder of TreePeople.
Another goal is to encourage people to make a commitment to tending their tree, since no tree in Los Angeles can live on its own anymore, Lipkis said. The environment is much too harsh; both drought and humans kill trees.
"We like to say it takes five years to plant a tree," he said. And while TreePeople sends post-planting tree care crews to water, mulch and, where necessary, adjust tree stakes, trees sometimes need even more attention.
To help people make a connection with their tree, each planting group -- usually three people for a one-gallon sycamore or oak -- holds hands and circles the tree after it has been planted. Together they chant, "Trees need people, people need trees," repeating the phrases several times.
For Tu B'Shevat, they add readings or songs from the 15 Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120 to 134) -- such as Psalm 121's "I lift my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come?" -- which are traditional for this holiday. Lastly, each group names its tree.
"People are much more likely to take care of something they put a name to," said CoejlSC's Wallach, explaining that many trees are given common appellations such as Joe, Fred or Shlomo, often in someone's memory or honor. Sometimes the group picks a more "earthy" name, such as Summer. And occasionally a name like Elmo or Buzz Lightyear wins out.
Additionally, Lipkis said, TreePeople encourages people to put a little piece of themselves, some of their hair or a note, in the hole.
"The tree eats it and they become part of the tree," he said.
But the connection between people and trees is even more basic. In a simple exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, humans breathe in the oxygen that the trees breathe out and breathe out the carbon dioxide that trees take in.
Thus, it's not merely a nice gesture for people to plant trees; it's an imperative, resulting in significant economic and ecological advantages. From reducing global warming to conserving energy to saving water, from providing food to giving shade and beauty to increasing property values, trees help heal the world. Trees replenish resources that we deplete. Trees also replenish the soul.
"Judaism has very agrarian roots. For us, as post-modern Jews who sit at our computers and Treos all day, it's important to get our hands dirty and reconnect with those roots," said Rabbi Susan Leider, who is organizing a group of 20- and 30-somethings from Temple Beth Am to participate in the Runyon Canyon Park planting,
In Los Angeles, more trees are sorely needed. Paula Daniels, current chair of the Million Tree Initiative and Board of Public Works commissioner, said that the goal of the Million Tree Initiative is to increase the tree canopy cover from 18 percent, the city's current average, to 27 percent, which is the national average.
But according to Daniels, the figures don't tell the whole truth. Some of the more prosperous communities, such as Bel Air and Brentwood, have a canopy cover of 37 percent, whereas other areas such as South Los Angeles have only around 5 percent.
And while trees improve the aesthetics of any neighborhood, even more important, they brighten the economic picture. Daniels stressed that every dollar spent on a tree gives a 280 percent return on that investment in terms of improving air quality, water quality and energy savings. Thus, the initiative's projected cost of $70 million, which covers the plants, labor and supplies and initial irrigation, can be expected to bring a return of $196 million.
But it's important to plant the right tree. The Million Tree Initiative, along with the other environmental groups, have identified trees that can thrive in Los Angeles' semiarid climate and not use too much water. Palm trees, classified more as a grass than a tree, did not make the cut. While historic and cultural Los Angeles icons, they are expensive, hard to maintain, prone to disease and, perhaps most importantly, lack the necessary broad canopy.
As the Million Tree Initiative gains momentum, Daniels would like to see every Angeleno involved, planting a tree as a symbolic act of making his or her contribution to the environment and creating a legacy for generations to come.
Every tree counts. Thus people who are planting trees in their yards or in events not sponsored by the Million Tree Initiative can register their tree on the program's Web site. And for those people without any Tu B'Shevat plans, TreePeople's Lipkis suggested they sit down with their family to think, study and "plant the seed of commitment" for a future planting.
"You think that it's so simple," said Shelley Billick, revisiting the trees her family planted two years ago in Glen Alla Park. "But it really has to be done correctly ... and lovingly." Web links: www.coejlsc.org
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