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Sunday Sketches: Branching out
A birthday hack
Thursday was the 18th anniversary of the City of Toronto planting a tree (free! do it!) on our front yard. We wanted to throw an impromptu street party but didn’t have time, so today I’d like to honor our hackberry. I’ll never not delight in the fact that hackberry was the tree that the city deemed most suitable for two then-journalists.
I’ve loved this silly tree since its planting, and watched as its growth matched that of my own little family. It’s older than my children. It went from sapling to taller than our three-story house in the course of a decade and change. And it now contributes to the tree canopy on our street, offering shade and beauty and general hackery.
Long before I began waking up in a cold sweat due to our global carbon budget, I used to wake up fretting about our tree canopy. Ideal coverage would be 40% or more, they said. We are far from this. People, climate-y and normal, don’t talk about the tree canopy as much anymore, perhaps because our “world-class” city has begun to experience larger growing pains than growing trees. Little city, little problems, big city, big problems. Or perhaps, tents over trees.
(A dozen years ago, I started a Choose your own adventure about our hackberry on Pinterest. Maybe I’ll finish it now.)
Don’t talk smack about my hack
Trees have gotten a bad rap of late because of the dodginess of recent offset practices (and because everyone has suddenly realized The Giving Tree is actually a tale of murder most foul), but I fret about the swift, shorthand maligning of, you know, one of our TOP FIVE FORMS OF LIFE ON THIS PLANET. And I want to make sure we love the music, hate the band when it comes to tree offsets, because we still want ALL THE TREES TO GET PLANTED—we just don’t want to hold them responsible for things like … saving all humanity from burning up. That’s a lot of pressure to put on even the strongest ironwood.
Indeed, our extractive relationship with trees is something to leave behind, though of course I’m not saying we should halt mass timber building or anything like that. Instead, I’m thinking about how we use shrubs as a treehicle for storytelling, how they shape the branching narratives of our lives, and inform both our advocacy and our perspective. And right now, it feels like a one-way conversation. Very Put-a-Tree-on-It.
But just as we evolve how we communicate trees, I’m interested in our ever-evolving understanding of their communicative powers. I used to think that most of science was understood (yes, I paid much more attention in painting class than biology), so it’s a marvel to me that we have basically come around to the idea that trees can talk in our lifetimes. Between that and the invention of the cronut, what a time to be alive.
If our hackberry is talking, I suspect it’s telling me to water it and to stop writing terrible experimental fiction about it.
Previous MVP stems
Todd on trees: Wisdom from an arborist pal.
Coach Beard talks to the trees. The newsletter Venn diagram of Ted Lasso and Suzanne Simard. (PS Ted Lasso is back and STILL so good. My daughter laughs so hard she can hardly breathe. And then she turns to me and tells me what she loves most about it is Keeley and Rebecca’s friendship.)
Yes we canopy: Katie’s tree-day bday, wherein we painted a lot of tree decorations for the park.
You don’t need much more than a tree to forest bathe. Stop fetishizing faraway forests and dismissing urban nature.
Mangroves on my mind. Or really, a few pics of my fave Flo foliage.
What do you appreciate/atreeciate? Sarah, no!
Thank you for your lovely likes and words about my scenes from a life. It’s validation to me that art has as much a place here as scientific papers, though my next newsletter will indeed be doodles on data.
Our plaque gets internet famous a few times a year, and I love it. The people who venture out to see our silly signage are people I know I’ll like. And Ben’s responses to our Google reviews are THE BEST.
Do SO MUCH BETTER, Substack! This is both appallingly stupid and terribly poor comms.
I didn’t want to read Chris Turner’s How to Be a Climate Optimist because I didn’t like the title (see: narcissism of small diffs). But I did, and it is thoughtful. He destroys the climate war mobilization metaphor better than anyone I’ve ever read.
Dispel the despondency! Good Fast Company piece feat my brilliant colleague Leah, in which I toss in a few forested words.
DeSantis destroys New College. Honestly, W! T! F! It was a beautiful haven of public education for smart and interesting kids who didn’t want to go to Football State.
Yes, I threw a heat pump party. Yes, my husband gave all the cocktails dorkily delightful electric names. Talked to Metro Morning about it here.
My pal Andy made me this creepy HP AI tupperware art, and also has a sustainable architecture chatbot on his site. Ask it all your heat pump questions!
Catchy ankle workout, courtesy Vulfpeck.
Thanks so much for reading. Always tell me how to make this newsletter better.
Have a lovely week,