When I think of trees, I think of longevity; of old-growth forests in the west with trees that have survived for hundreds of years and individual trees that have managed to survive for millennia. In my environmental studies class last semester, I learned that even tiny trees that the average person would assume were recently planted can be up to twenty years old and have simply had their growth stunted as they wait for a spot in the forest canopy and its resultant nourishment to open up. Even though new trees are planted on a daily basis, it is hard for me to imagine one that has not witnessed events that to me are only historical relics.
Kylander, however is young both in terms of trees and the students with whom he spends his days: at approximately eight years old, he is less than half of my age and still youthful compared to other Amur Corktrees, which can live up to ninety years (only a little longer than the average human, making their lifespan quite short in comparison to other trees). He was born in 2008; the same year that Barack Obama was elected to his first term as president and America saw the worst of its most recent economic crisis. Kylander remained oblivious to this political and economic change however, as he grew quicker than his friends fighting it out on the forest floor would have and enjoyed fresh supplies of carbon dioxide and water.
2010 and 2011 hit hard for Kylander as a result of environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Fukushima earthquake that resulted in an explosion at a nuclear power plant. Even though Kylander wasn’t directly effected by either of these disasters, he still felt great concern as a tree in a world with limited water. Large scale disasters such as these which are either created by humans or have effects that are worsened by their environmental presence, as well as large-scale harmful practices both worry him: as a young tree, he could be facing a bleak future.
A complaint of many Dickinson students is the lack of weather cancellations we get: throughout the past two winters full of extreme ice storms and days with a below zero wind chill, I have had to go to every single one of my classes on schedule. “In my hometown, we got four days off for a few flurries but the dorms here can be completely snowed in and I’ll still have class,” a friend once told me. In October of 2012 however, the arrival of Hurricane Sandy at the tail end of hurricane season was enough for Dickinson students to get two days off. Even though Sandy’s record-breaking flooding was enough to give the students a day off, Kylander arrived at his new home on campus only weeks later, as relief efforts were still underway in along the east coast.
After the class of 2016 graduates in May, Kylander will have been in Carlisle longer than most Dickinson students. Even though he has witnessed many concerning environmental events in his short life, the students he witnesses every day give him hope that the future won’t be as worrisome for him as the present.