I am a student this semester in Anthony Barnum’s environmental sociology course. I am instructed to keep a tree blog, and in doing so I am helping my grade. With that being said, Ash Ketchum, the white ash tree on Morgan Field, which is my assigned tree, has a fairly high use-value for me at this time. Use-value as defined by The Marxist Glossary is “anything that satisfies a human want.” (1943: 96). In this situation my “human want” is to achieve a good grade, get a good GPA and graduate from college successfully…right?
It could be more than that however. I think the most basic human-want is to be happy. So how does Ash make me happy? In what ways is he enhancing my level of contentment? He is just a tree after all, a single trunk of wood with a few leaves and branches. Sure, plant life is the reason that I am able to breath and they produce oxygen, but one tree doesn’t make a huge difference, right?
For me, on the surface, without thinking about every way that Ash benefits my life, it is his aesthetic that gives him use value. I am a student at Dickinson College, and part of what drew me to come to school here is the natural and architectural beauty. Ash stands tall, with his branches drooping lazily over the grey stones of Morgan Hall. I as a human, want to be surrounded by beauty; I don’t think that people strive to be in an ugly place, it just depends on their version of “ugly.” For me Ash an ad to the beauty of this school, and satisfies my “want.”
On a more practical level, Ash and his white ash brethren are responsible for many of the baseball bats used in Major League Baseball. Before recently, Louisville Slugger exclusively used white ash trees in the production of their legendary and historic baseball bats. Baseball bats are something that we as humans want. It is something tangible that we can see, and with that we know that Ash does contribute to the use-value of at least America, where baseball is the “national pastime.” Unfortunately these white ash trees are depleting so Louisville Slugger has to search for other resources.
Looking at Ash as a tree, and a member of the natural community as a whole, there is an obvious sense of use-value. We burn wood, we breath air, we need trees. We want to survive (I assume), and we cannot do so without trees. When it comes down to it, Ash’s most valuable addition to humans’ inherent use-value, is his ability to maintain life. Maybe the world could sacrifice a tree here and there, but Ash is a part of a global community of trees that we as humans heavily rely on.