The Importance of Being Earnest

IMG_1646Tree blog 11-final


The Importance of Being Earnest:


Hot, sweaty, and tired was when we first met

A bond was formed I’ll never forget

We shared our stories both good and bad

Like that crazy summer storm you once had

You have taught me so much I never knew
Like how to remove toxins and still get a good view

You have sheltered me from the rain

You have even given my t-shirt a stain.

That one day I found you crying all alone

I sat beside you and reciprocated the love you have shown

As I sit here defending your right to stay

‘This is bullshit’, is all I can say.

Who would dare cut you down

The most toxic reducing bachelor in town






Value Earned

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At the individual level this tree has had an extremely positive affect on me. Not only in my attitude towards Earnest in particular, but rather towards nature as a whole. When you begin to spend an extended amount of time with a single object, whether it be natural or not, you are more than likely to spark a relationship. Through our relationship I was able to gain a much greater appreciation for all of the work nature does behind closed curtains. As I recently heard in a movie I was watching “beautiful things never ask for attention”. This resounded with me because I instantly thought of Earnest. Even though he may not be the tallest, strongest, or even the most beautiful tree on campus, he is mine and I will never forget his completely selfless nature.


Local Environment:

In terms of the local environment, Earnest has a huge part to play. As we already have discussed he is a Londonplane tree mixed with a Sycamore, these hereditary traits allow him to be extremely efficient at reducing surrounding air pollutants. In a place like Carlisle, where the average ambient air quality is worse than most of the US, it is vital to incorporate species such as the London Plain into our designs. If we are to attempt to remedy our environmentally-degrading behavior we must begin to look at more ground-up solutions. These are solutions that stem directly from local sources or the affected persons, allowing for a more personal and direct resolution to the actual problem.



Earnest serves the campus of Dickinson College 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. Aside from its environmental benefits, the Londonplane Tree offers a variety of benefits for local communities both human and non-human. Ranging from a slight acknowledgement “that tree looks beautiful right now” to the squirrel family that nests in the upper branches, this tree selflessly serves the communities of Dickinson College. Its use-value could therefore be determined by; its aesthetic appeal to people, or its ability to remove air toxins, or for its integral role in the local ecosystem that does not include humans.
I wonder what the majority of people on campus would chose out of these three options?


Global Ecosystem/World:

At this level of interpretation it is necessary to move from talking about Earnest as an individual and rather about trees, and therefore the natural environment, in general and their importance and impact to the world. Every single day we lose a gargantuan amount of natural rainforests to deforestation and the greed that plagues our so-called ‘civilized’ nations. The single purpose of evolution is survival, and the way Mother Nature protects her survival is through biodiversity. It is nature’s defense mechanism to sudden change in the local environment. Unfortunately for natural ecosystems that inherently promote biodiversity, the industrial civilization that the world has adopted relies on the destruction of biodiversity. We use monoculture crops throughout the United States, especially corn, we require cleared land in order to continue to gain maximum surplus that correlates to the rising population levels. At every step of the way humans destroy biodiversity and the survival of nature that comes with it.


HEP vs NEP- a word from Earnest

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The HEP theory claims that humans are such a uniquely superior species that they are exempt from environmental forces. Shaped by the leading Western worldview of the time, this was the popular societal paradigm from the industrial revolution until the second half of the 20th century. Human dominance was justified by the uniqueness of our culture, which is far more adaptable over a shorter period than an ecosystem or biological process. Culture also has the capacity to accumulate and innovate, making it an unbounded resource capable of solving all natural problems. As humans are not governed by natural conditions, they have complete control of their own destiny. Any potential limitations posed by the natural world, are surpassable using human intellect and ingenuity.

In the 1970’s, scholars began to see limitations emerging with regards to our natural resources. This coined the term ‘New Ecological Theory (NEP)’. This theory was one of the first of its kind that took environmental variables into account and it completely contradicted the HEP theory. While HEP sees humans as separate/above the natural environment, NEP suggests that human beings are an integral part of the ecosystem and as much a part of it as any other species, we are still ecologically interdependent. The NEP notes the power of social and cultural forces, however it does not set us above these forces. Instead, humans are impacted by the cause, effect, and feedback loops of ecosystems. The earth has a finite level of natural resources and waste repositories. Thus the biosphere/physical environment can impose restrictions on human activity.

My conceptualization of these theories, with regards to my tree, is much more strongly directed towards the NEP theory than the HEP. The reason for my stance is simple, without the cycles of the natural world human beings would not, and could not exist. My tree is a London Plane tree hybrid, among its many uses is its unique ability to reduce the ambient air pollution more than most other tree species. This skill enables this species to be very advantageous in a wide variety of locations that have poor air quality.
Lucky enough for Earnest and his cousins, there are plenty of human-inhabited landscapes that are in desperate need of trees with such skills. Unfortunately for Earnest and his cousins, there are plenty of human-inhabited landscapes that are in desperate need of trees to remedy the consequences of their activities and only once they realize the severity of their actions do they seek out trees such as Earnest.
I find the NEP paradigm more relevant because it is the paradigm in which we must trust if we are to move forward. For far too long we have allowed HEP principles to be the underlying infrastructure of our economy, basing our current and future energy, social, environmental problems on the idea that; whatever issue we face we can overcome given enough time and money.
There are also other theories that are similar to the ideas brought up in the HEP and NEP argument. One of these seeks to determine sustainability, however they do so by splitting sustainability into two sections; weak and strong sustainability. Weak sustainability is comparable with the HEP side of the debate, it implies that human capital (produced) and natural capital are interchangeable. In very weak sustainability, as long as total capital is consistent and at a certain level then it does not matter whether that capital be natural or produced. While in strong sustainability the future generations are of utmost importance, due mainly to their inherent right to receive a planet with the same natural resources that were present in generations before. Weak sustainability says that we do not know what future generations will or won’t need/want, so we are best to serve ourselves however we please as long as we maintain total capital.

Falling over

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On this wonderful day I chose to go and visit my old pal Earnest. The weather is extremely persistent in its efforts to catch up on all the lack of rain we have had over the past two months. As a result I am huddled between earnest and a brick wall trying to stay as dry as possible.
The surround fields have changed dramatically since my last visit. No longer is the grass a vivid green and the staunch trees standing tall and unmoving. Today the grass looks like a treacherous war field offering severe consequences to those silly enough to traverse it. While the once proud trees are now being thrown around as if a puppet master has them all on a string. The sky only seems to add to the threatening nature of my predicament. Deep blue-grey swirls combined with midnight black whirls, create an eerie environment devoid of color and light. At this time of day (approx. 4pm) and with such poor natural lighting, it is hard to distinguish tones/patterns with much detail. Not only that, but the downpour of rain has left most of his trunk a dark brown only spoiled by slight stains of a greeny-brown moss that is dotted up the full length of Earnest.
I have noticed that there are far fewer squirrels out today than were here for my last blog. However there are the brave few who have decided that their need for food is worth getting their bushy tails wet, although I might add not a single one of them went past a certain height on the trees due to the strong winds.

Today I did not see many kids walking by who looked happy. It seemed as though everyone had been ‘put out’ by this shocking thing we call rain. I heard a girl walk past saying “I wish it never rained, that would be really cool”, and similarly a male saying “Dude this rain is bulls**t, it either gets my hair wet or I have to wear a hat”.

However I found complete tranquility in the surrounding water droplets. The persistent rain created an eerie environment on Morgan field; well at least from where Earnest and myself are sitting. The air seems to be hanging around, as though the onslaught of rain water is restricting the air flow. Smells and sounds remain fairly consistent when you are sitting still. For me the most rewarding thing about the rain is the complete tranquility that is so embedded in its very nature. I often listen to rain when I am trying to sleep at night and being out by Earnest with the rain falling at my feet, allowed me to temporarily escape my physical form, either that or I fell asleep.
I watch as tiny droplets slowly make their way down Earnest’s body, as though he and gravity are fighting over which will claim the most droplets for themselves. Still focusing on water, I turn my gaze towards the concrete path laid out ahead of me. I watch as the rainwater takes on a very different form than when descending a tree trunk. I notice that the water on the footpath seems to be constantly seeking escape. While it may flow easier down the concrete form, the rainwater seems desperate in its attempts to find soil, grass, hedges.

Falling slowly

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It is nearing the end of October here at Dickinson and the Fall is coming into its own increasingly quickly. Leaves of every color litter the campus grounds, kept somewhat at bay by the dedication of our groundskeepers, but mainly by the powerful leaf blower they each have strapped to their backs. The array of leaves serve as a playground for many woodland organisms, the squirrels especially seem to have taken a shine to a particular pile of leaves situated between Earnest and the North-East corner of Morgan Hall.

On this unassuming afternoon the campus has been rewarded with surprisingly weather. Students and professors alike seem delighted to get one more days-use out of “those nice shorts I have” before they are locked away and forgotten about for 4 miserable months. A pair of freshman boys attempt to attract the attention of several sunbathing girls, however their attempts are either not witnessed or simply ignored…I guess their Frisbee skills were not quite up to par.
The sky is a bright baby blue dotted here and there by a lone cloud, these white wisps of moisture acting like jellyfish of the air. Continuing on from top to bottom; the surrounding trees were going through a tremendous change. Every day more and more little soldiers fall to the ground in aid of the soil/ground quality. As I am thinking about our horrible custom to rake our leaves; Earnest reaches out and gives me a piece of wisdom. A single leaf of his slowly swirls, and twirls, and whirls its way toward the ground making slow arching circles in its decent path. When it at last settles down, on a patch of grass close to my feet, I feel obliged to pick it up.
At first touch it is very fragile, not in a sense that it will crumble but rather that it has no strength/rigidity to its structure. The leaf has a cool feel to it at first. The top side has a dull brown tone which is dotted with dark green/brown spots, while the bottom side has the same spots yet its base color is much paler than the top, almost a creamy brown. However it was the texture of the leaf that captured my attention the most. The topside was extremely smooth while the bottom felt like a light-grade sandpaper.

In all honesty…today Earnest looked a little tired, and very relieved to be receiving all of these rays. He has lost a large majority of his leaves already, a lot faster than some other trees I see around campus, by now he has lost about 70% of his bulk. There have also been some small branches, that Earnest felt he no longer needed, that have been laid at his feet for whoever/whatever desires them. In terms of Earnest himself, he has not changed dramatically from the previous blog, however I am bale to witness much of his change simply by bearing witness to the change going on around him. He is a part of his environment, so when it changes so does he. Regardless of how it may appear.


Describing Earnest


Its early evening, about an hour before the sun sets. The sky is entirely clear blue, only separated by the occasional wisp of white cloud lazily making its way across the land. With the sun dropping lower every minute, long shadows begin to encompass every inch of the ground, the silent battle between light and dark goes unnoticed by the passing-by students. The air is a comfortable temperature with most students choosing a long-sleeved jumper with either shorts or light pants. It is a still evening, with barely a whisper from the wind.
As I make my way across High Street towards Earnest, I thank the crossing guard for his work and in response I receive a slight tip-of-the-hat in acknowledgement. Morgan field looks absolutely stunning, with the suns’ low rays reaching through the tree tops to create a kaleidoscope effect 30 ft. above ground. By now a large portion of the trees have begun to see changes in their leaf color. An array of greens, reds, oranges, and yellows bombard my peripheral vision while the constant crunching of leaves underfoot remind me of the temporal beauty of Fall.


Earnest sits patiently awaiting my return. Today he looks in fine form. His weathered face greets me with the usual kindness I have come to expect from my silent, yet stoic friend. His skin has taken on a deep chestnut color around the base, while further up his inconsistent tone enables a mixture of vibrant dark-green, with a light cream-color to combine. The leaves towards the base of the tree have been the slowest to turn, while those at the top have already accepted their fate and begun the journey towards winter-life. However there is not a whole lot of leaves at his base relative to other trees in the vicinity.
A squirrel franticly climbs up Earnest’s back in order to reach a knob in the tree where he seems to keep all of his hoarded treasure. It’s bushy tail is all i can see while he digs through his collection of goodies. A Chinese girl walks past wearing baggy light-blue jeans, a warm pink hoodie, white and red nike shoes, and large black headphones blocking her from reality. She does not pay Earnest the slightest bit of attention on her way towards the Malcolm building.
As I sit here watching the last rays of light leave me, I see a bird come to rest on one of Earnest’s branches. And I realize that while we may not pay him much attention, those that matter still do.




Today I sat at the base of Earnest with nothing except my thoughts, and myself with special focus on the sounds surrounding the two of us.



Immediately I made a startling realization that I could not hear nature. While I may be able to see it and feel it all around me, I could shut my eyes and not know whether I am in New York city or Carlisle. The reason this alarmed me so much was because I did not associate Carlisle with the hustle bustle of the city-life. However with my senses limited to sound alone, I realized my entire perspective of the college was a little skewed.

After my initial speed-bump I really tried to focus in on specific sounds, such as people walking past me and their conversations. I heard one girl giving a rather detailed account of her night-time adventures with one lucky lacrosse player. I also felt somewhat creepy listening to people’s conversations, but I could not help it as the brick wall kept me out of sight of pedestrians. However it was not just the people that I could hear. The most prominent noise was the consistent rumble of cars rolling past, not just moving but rather I could hear them accelerating and also that cringe sound of cars braking.

There were a few moments in my, approx. 20 minute, stay that man-made sounds were at a minimum and I was able to hear some birds singing, and the occasional brave squirrel trying to find the perfect spot to bury its precious treasure. The most pleasant sounds were not made by any single organism, but rather a collective group of organisms, that we have called nature. I am talking about the wind. It was the only noise not polluted by man. It has the ability to direct and re-direct any noise at will, it can permeate any object and is the purest form of noise because it blocks out any other noise. When hearing is all you have, it feels like a blanket of white noise engulfing your world in its generous embrace.
After my hearing experiment I found a few things out. Firstly, that I do not enjoy the majority of sounds I hear around campus. Secondly, that I did not realize these negative sounds have been around me all the time and I have only just realized. Its like when you hear a repetitive rift in a good song, and no matter how much you try all you can hear from that point on is that annoying repetitive rift. Finally, I found that wind is like a safety blanket for acoustics.


Screeching tires, violent braking

Heavy foot, acceleration taking

Jibber jabber, useless conversation

Eavesdropping, feeling your sensation

Hustle bustle, forever a commotion

A silent listener, hearing all emotion

Lips sealed, wounds healed

A world with no vision.

Change of scenery


Today when visiting Earnest I decided it would be interesting to look at the world from his view as opposed to viewing him.
When I first arrived at Earnest’s location I noticed he seemed a bit glum. I could empathize with him in regards to myself sometimes feeling a little glum when it rains. As it was slightly wet on the ground nearby, I put my back against Earnest and my bum on the dry ground at his feet. As soon as I sat down my entire perspective was radically different.
Aside from my eye level changing to a lower height, I immediately felt closer to my surroundings. I could no longer see the road or any cars thanks to the concrete wall nestled between Earnest and the road. I could still hear all of the human activity, but simply by NOT seeing it made it much less invasive to the senses. Now my view consisted entirely of Morgan Field and its wonderful abundance of plant life. Although I often wonder if we could have more plant/animal life around campus.
The biggest change I noticed by sitting with Earnest was my increased sensitivity to smell. Immediately I was able to smell more of my surroundings, including the grass, the dirt, and also Earnest himself. He had a mild musty scent with a slight tang that I had never sensed before.
The most obvious change resulting from my observation was the increased frequency with which I saw squirrels. As I watched them scurry from this tree to that tree, I wonder why they have to travel so far between trees. I understand that Dickinson College probably finds large, full-grown, spaced-out trees surrounded by grass, to be much more aesthetically pleasing than a dense forest with little to no patches of grass. However, I also question whether that stance is what’s best for Dickinson College and ALL of its inhabitants. Would students be happier if Morgan Field had closer to 500 trees as opposed to the approximately 100 trees currently dotted around the area?
Not only would students/faculty potentially find it more pleasurable, but the wildlife population would see a huge improvement. With more trees comes more bugs/insects, more bugs leads to an increase in bird life, more birds means more seed dispersal which leads to greater overall beauty. On top of that, more trees mean more nuts which means more squirrels, which also leads to greater seed dispersal. We also all know that trees are our most important carbon sink (meaning it takes CO2 out of the atmosphere). In a town like Carlisle, where the average air quality is extremely low, trees such as Earnest should be given many more neighbors.
As I sit here imagining a glorious forest rising up around me, engulfing everything in beautiful biodiversity, I feel sad. Sad because I know that this will never happen, not just at Dickinson, but everywhere humans inhabit. This is due to man-kinds long history of tree removal, sometimes simply because they were inconvenient to us. We do not seem to value plant-life/trees that do not offer us an immediate ‘good’. While they are the most important carbon sink on the planet, we continue to cut them down at an unprecedented rate.
As soon as I stand back up my imaginary forest falls away before my eyes. Am I a wishful thinker? Or am I a realistic thinker ahead of the curve ball? Only time will tell whether deforestation continues to occur, or whether we will come to our sense and implement a new regime promoting reforestation.




A 360 view,
I have of you.
Magnanimous is your presence,
alas I sense a severance.
Between my friends and yours,
i’ll admit, we are the cause.
We plunder and pillage,
forever expanding our village.
All of Mother Earth’s creation,
a long forgotten sensation.
I have hope for us still,
that nature we won’t kill.
We need a change of system,
I just hope that they listen.

How do you perceive time?


I am unsure as to the age of my tree. I have looked up the average age a London Plane can reach, as it turns out none have been known to die of old age yet. Therefore I have decided to give my tree an age of 80 years old.



The day we first met was a sight to behold. A smeltering 90 degrees, very little wind, and high levels of humidity, combined with 15 lethargic bodies shifting sullenly under the sun.
However long before that glorious September 7th Monday, and long before I made my way to Dickinson College two and a half years ago, you have existed. Seeing time pass by one season to the next, but witnessing change happen around you regarding structures/roads, at much more rapid rates and much slower rates.
For instance, when the new library was built right in front of you it must have driven your friends crazy! The view you had of that process was one to envy, and I am sure Mr Oak was very jealous. You will have being witness to the changes of not just buildings and infrastructure, but rather the huge change in the student life and their activities. From what I have heard about Dickinson College in the 80’s it seemed to be quite a hoot, as I am sure you know from first-hand experience. There must have been many a night when you were silently slumbering only to be awoken by an idiotic inebriated imbecile impatiently relieving himself on either you or your poor neighbor.

As you track back through your memory log (pun intended), I wonder whether your recollections are based on human infrastructure and growth, changing ecosystems around you over time, or from one weather extreme to the next indicating key moments in your history and what made you you.

When I consider your history I am astonished to imagine your birthday. I am even more astonished to imagine what your memories must hold of the past. Not just events in history but rather human habits and their change over the past 80 years. How have lifestyles have dramatically developed for either the better or worse. The introduction of technology and how we as a race have entirely changed what our day-to-day life revolves around. Have you seen an increase or decrease in peoples attraction to you or your friends? Was there an era where we seemed to be MORE in touch with what it means to be a part of nature and not its executioner?


The more I consider your long life-time here in Carlisle PA, the harder I find it to decide your notion of time. What I mean is that because you lead a much less movement-based lifestyle does that mean that you experience time in a different way to human beings. While we humans tend to live very in-the-moment, due mainly to the busy lifestyles that a capitalist society enforces us to take a part in, I wonder if you as a tree live much more out-of-the-moment. Perhaps an entire 24-hour day that we experience, when compared with your experience, is but a brief moment only made relevant by extreme conditions or experiences.



0-22 years old Zacc Dwan:                                       0-80 years old London Plane:
Light.                                                                            S
Cry.                                                                               E
Speak.                                                                          L
Chew.                                                                           F
Ask.                                                                               L
School.                                                                         E
Friends.                                                                       S
Sport.                                                                           S
Injury.                                                                          .

Introducing Earnest


Today I decided to go visit my tree from a purely physical stance, I also decided to name my tree Earnest.
From a distance this tree is fairly impressive, bearing down on us from a height of approximately 40-50ft this giant London Plane tree is a hybrid sharing its genes with the American Sycamore tree. It seems to have grown in a way conducive to the presence of the road and through-traffic, with its two largest and lowest hanging branches stretching parallel to the road. However it definitely has a slight lean over the footpath beneath lending some of its weight to the concrete wall running down West High Street and providing some shelter and protection to pedestrians. Its branches spread in every direction to form a maximum width of roughly 40ft, it looks like a very good tree to climb if I can make it past the first 20ft.

The first thing I noticed about this tree was its inconsistency in texture and color scheme. At the base of the tree the color is a scattered mixture ranging from dark green to light brown, however the texture is by far the most impressive. There are hundreds of small pieces of bark peeling off of the tree trunk like a giant snake getting rid of its old scales in preparation for a harsh winter. There a multiple patches of green moss growing near ground level, especially where the tree meets the concrete wall. There are dozens of ball-like knots dotted around the tree trunk up to about head height. They range in size from a golf ball to some as large as a tennis ball.








When I am cold, I shiver

When you are cold, you shed

When I am warm, I sweat

When you are warm, you blossom

When I am wet, I dry

When you are wet, you absorb

When I am tired, I sleep

When you are tired, you droop

When I stumble, I pick myself up

When you stumble, no one is there to help

When I cut myself, I heal

When someone cuts you, you don’t.









In this above photo I feel as though a face can be made out from underneath all the knotted wood-balls.

The higher up my eyes travel the lighter tone my tree takes on. This is due to many factors including that my tree often changes color schemes depending on its environment and the quality of the surrounding air. This particular species is very good at cleaning out toxins and particulate matter that has been absorbed into the atmosphere. According to our own landscapers; that is why in Carlisle these trees should become a priority because as we all know, the average air quality in Carlisle is poor when compared to many other areas in Pennsylvania let alone other states.