Over the past semester I have become really close with Edgar. I have spent a decent amount of time with him relaxing on the academic quad and thinking about the relationship between humans and the environment that Edgar is a crucial part of. I was completely horrified to hear that Dickinson College was planning to cut down many tree’s on campus, including Edgar. Edgar actually thinks that it is because he is not as attractive as the other trees but I assured him that was not true. I told him that it is because of paradigms such as HEP that represent the reasons why they are trying to cut you down. Humans think they are separate from the ecological ecosystem, making us superior to other living organisms. In reality, we are connected to just about everything, making us, to the surprise of many, equal to the environment. We use natural resources to our leisure and trees are a major resource. As Edgar’s friend, it is my job to save him from being cut down for no reason but pure human greed and ignorance.
Edgar is alive and living. He may not have a brain scientifically, but after spending so much time with him I know that he has one of the smartest, most useful brains out of all of the trees on campus. He knows how to create oxygen to help us breathe! He knows how to make the campus beautiful by changing with the seasons.
In my opinion, cutting down a tree that is dead makes sense. It is no longer serving its purpose. However, cutting down a perfectly good tree makes no sense. You are killing something that is living. We humans are manipulating the environment for our benefit. What even is the benefit of cutting down a tree that helps the world in so many ways? Edgar produces acorns for squirrels and other local wildlife to eat. He gives shelter to the many bird species that fly above our campus. He gives shade to those of us who want to relax outside. It is our responsibility as humans to protect the things that help us survive. A protest seems to be the only way to get the Dickinson community to listen. I plan to sit in front of Edgar until the school decided not to cut him down. Hopefully others with join me.
As a tree on a college campus, I would say that Edgar has a very different “use-value” compared to trees located in a forests in on the site of a new construction project. To me personally, Edgar’s use-value is more as a relaxing place to sit under and get some shade. He helps in making the campus look more natural and beautiful. To the local environment Edgar is a part of, his use-value helps the local wildlife such as squirrels and birds. He helps make the soil better. To the college campus, Edgar is helpful in making the academic quad look more natural, as I stated before. He allows for the campus to be more visually pleasing, rather than looking at a bare field with academic buildings. To the global ecosystem and the world, Edgar is just one tree out of billions. He is only known to a select amount of people. However, just by being a tree Edgar is helping the world by helping make the planet healthy, giving humans oxygen and by making the planet more beautiful overall. Edgar gives a lot even though it may not be known or visible. He a living thing, which means that he contributes to the planet on many different levels, whether it be individually, locally or worldly.
In their article on environmental sociology, Catton and Dunlap look at two different paradigms in which to analyze the relationship between humans and the environment. The “Human Exceptionalism Paradigm” or “HEP” basically states that humans are superior to the environment, thus, the physical environment is irrelevant in helping to understand social behavior (250). In contrast, the “New Environmental Paradigm” also known as “NEP” stresses the ecosystem-dependence of human societies (250). According to Catton and Dunlap, “environmental sociologists deny the strange assumption that humans have exceptional characteristics such as culture, technology, language and elaborate social organization that somehow exempts us from ecological principles and from environmental influences and restraints” (250).
After spending these 14 weeks with Edgar and through taking this class on environmental sociology, I have learned that the “New Environmental Paradigm” is the paradigm that reflects our relationship with the environment, whether we like it or not. Humans are in no way superior to the environment. This is especially evident after seeing the devastating effects of massive hurricanes, tornados, heat waves, snow storms, tsunamis and earthquakes that have wreaked havoc on human society. We take from the environment as much as we want, and in turn, the environment in all its power, fights back. As a tree, Edgar sees firsthand the effects humans have on the ecological system that they inhabit. He says that he is lucky to be able to live on a campus as environmentally savvy as Dickinson. But he knows that other trees are suffering the effects of deforestation and massive storms that tear them down. He believes that more people need to recognize NEP has a reality.
Catton, William, R. and Riley E. Dunlap. Environmental Sociology. Washington State University: 1979.
After a few strangely warm days in mid October, cool fall weather has arrived in Carlisle. Edgar was telling me how cold it has gotten at night recently and how much he misses the heat of the summer sun. Edgar’s other tree-friends on the academic quad are continuing their transition to winter bareness. Certain trees ate almost completely bare, Edgar still has a decent amount of yellow colored leaves. He tells me that every time the wind blows, he tries his hardest to hold on to the leaves he has left so they don’t fly off and lay sadly on the cold ground.
If you are in the sun, it is still warm enough to sit outside on the adirondack chairs. Edgar says that in the winter he misses when students do their homework outside. He gets more lonely during the long winter months.
The days have also continued to get shorter. As it gets darker earlier, it seems like the nights are never-ending. Pretty soon, as I walk back home from class at 4:30, the sun will be setting. Edgar has trouble with these long nights which are filled with a deep silence except for the occasional car. He tells me that he has no idea how the trees in the forest deal with the darkness, silence and loneliness. He likes human interaction, animal interaction is not enough.
Edgar is clearly a very sensitive tree.
Within the past few days it has really started to look and feel like fall. Edgar is enjoying his own new fall colors which are slowly transitioning. I decided to take advantage of yet another beautiful sunny day to sit with Edgar. I am assuming today was a Discover Dickinson day for potential new students because there were a ton of tours going on. It was the perfect day to tour the school. Groups of young high school students preparing themselves for the future that lays ahead along with their parents commented on the beautiful fall colors as they walked by Edgar and I. Edgar showed off his best pose.
One of my favorite things about trees in general is when the sunlight shines through the leaves literally making them glow when you stand underneath them. With the blue sky in the background and the glowing yellow leaves, Edgar was looking good as ever. I actually zoned out for maybe 20 minutes while looking at the leaves, completely ignoring my book for my senior seminar. The local squirrels, who happen to get way to close for comfort, continued with their hunt for acorns to store for the winter. I notice a large hawk looming above the academic quad search for its prey, which probably happened to be a squirrel. The hawk landed on some branches once and a while, but not Edgar’s. I don’t think Edgar would allow for the hawk to have a good enough view of the landscape. Thankfully, I did not have to witness a squirrel being killed, which I happened to see freshman year while sitting outside. The circle of life is not a pretty site.
The most overwhelming sound I heard while relaxing with Edgar was of crunching leaves, one of my favorite sounds (second to the sound of the ocean). Conversation was drowned out by the sound of the leaves under peoples feet. Even those walking alone in silence continued along with the crunching.
I am really going to miss Edgar’s leaves during the dark, depressing season known as winter.
I was getting the sense that Edgar was getting a little frustrated with me recently. I had been so busy that past couple of days that I hadn’t stopped by to say hello, even though I walk past Edgar everyday on my way to class in Denny. I felt bad so I decided to take advantage of a beautiful October day and sit on the academic quad with Edgar.
Even though he was facing stiff competition on the quad, Edgar was still looking pretty good. His leaves have started their transition from the deep green of summer to the burnt orange of fall. The soil surrounding Edgar, soon to be completely covered with dry, crinkly leaves, was only covered by a few. I think Edgar is still trying to hold on to the last bits of summer as the last few warm days continue into early October.
While hanging out with Edgar, I started thinking about how every season has its own distinct smell. Winter smells of burning fires and gingerbread. Spring smells of fresh cut grass and new mulch. Summer smells of sea air and sunscreen and fall smells of dry leaves and apple cider. I am now starting to smell that fall smell that I love and also hate simultaneously, because it signals, to quote Ned Stark of Game of Thrones, winter is coming.
Edgar sways as a strong gust of wind blows through his branches. The smell of fall overwhelms me and sends of cool chill up my spine. I am still not used to having to bring a jacket outside. The local Carlisle squirrels also seem to be preparing for the cooler months ahead, frantically collecting and burying acorns for later.
I say goodbye to Edgar and come back to my work filled reality. I thank him for letting me enjoy a beautiful fall day even if it was just for a short 30 minutes.
My tree, as with most of our trees, is located in an area where the natural world and the modern world collide. The landscape of the setting is done in such a way as to make it seem as natural and beautiful as possible. However, this swamp white oak is not located in a pristine forest where it comes into almost not contact with the modern world. The academic quad, where the swamp white oak is located, is actually surrounded by the sounds of the modern world.
The sounds of both the natural and the modern world were present while I sat under my tree. The scratching of squirrel claws against the bark of the tree was one of the most overwhelming natural sounds. Sometimes it was drowned out by the screeching of a large truck making its way down high street leaving a big black cloud of smoke in its tracks.
It was a windy, cloudy October day. The wind whipped through the soon to be colorful leaves. Students making their way to the HUB for lunch talked with friends. Overall, the sounds I heard were more hustle bustle than natural. Unfortunately, the sounds of cars, trucks and motorcycles drowned out the sounds of nature. Depending on the time of day (I was observing around 11:45 am), the sounds of nature and the sounds of the modern world become more prominent. I think the best time to really hear nature is at night, when the rest of the modern world is asleep.
I need a very quiet environment in order to focus and think deeply. While some people can think with a lot of background noise, I need complete silence. Sometimes listening to classical or jazz music helps me get into a work zone. I would say that I am a pretty observant person, maybe not as much as Leopold. Using the 5 senses is an obvious tool when observing something. Leopold uses every sense in order to truly absorb everything that is occurring around him, such as when he watches the birds from his porch.
On a perfectly sunny day last week I decide to go sit with me tree and observe everything around me using my 5 senses (maybe not taste). Due to the loudness of the traffic on High street it has difficult to hear clearly. But I did hear a lot of the buzzing of bees and wind blowing through the leaves and branches. My tree felt very rough to the touch due to the bark. The leaves felt like any other leaf. I examined the one green side and the silvery color of the other side. I see squirrels climbing the tree, bouncing of branches in search for nuts. Some of them looked like they were actually playing with each other.
I feel like this is a great place to come and think. Although it seems difficult to collect quantitative data from this perspective. I think that you can observe people passing by and the overall setting using a qualitative approach.
As of 2015, my tree (whose name is Edgar which I forgot to mention in my first post) is 20 years old. Only one year younger than me! This means that my tree was either planted at the end of 1994 or in 1995. Edgar and I have witnessed the same major world events that have defined my childhood and overall post 9/11 generation. A lot has changed on the Dickinson College campus in 20 years. Generations of students and professors have come and gone. Landscapes has changed and new buildings have been built or renovated. He has witnessed many convocation and graduation ceremonies. Edgar has posed proudly for many prospective students as they get tours of our beautiful campus. Many students have decided to sit under his shade in a red adirondack chair to read, chat or do homework.
Not only has my swamp white oak witnessed major events in the Dickinson community, he has also experienced major national and world events that have left permanent marks on history. Edgar was just in his infancy when the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people in 1995. He was extremely shaken up by the event. He overheard a lot of gossip on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998. Even though Edgar was pretty young at the time, he could not believe our President would do such a thing and than lie about it to the entire country!
Edgar really wanted to vote in the 2000 Presidential election but he was unfortunately too young. He was shocked by the closeness of the election.
September 11th 2001 was by far one of the scariest days in Edgar’s life. He remembers seeing students and professors crying as they walked on the academic quad. Life was truly never the same after that day.
Edgar has enjoyed getting to people watch a lot during passing time in between classes. He has gotten to know so many people over the course of his 20 years and is very excited for another 20 years at Dickinson.
I was first introduced to my tree, the beautiful swamp white oak, by Dickinson College arborist Mark Scott. It was a sunny but extremely humid September day, however, my tree’s large, rounded leaves provided me with the shade to help cool me off. My tree is located close to the center of the academic quad along a pathway leading to Bosler Hall. Native to the midwestern United States, with some isolated populations in the northeast, southeast and Canada, the swamp white oak can reach heights of about 50 to 60 feet and live a relatively long life. This particular swamp white oak is 44 feet tall and is only 20 years old.
The tree has grayish-brown bark with lots of ridges and cracks making it very rough to the touch. Its leaves are rather large with rounded lobes. During the spring and summer, the leaves are a darkish green color on top and is silvery white underneath. During the fall, the leaves will change colors to yellow and red.
The swamp white oak does well in urban settings as well on suburban streets and in parks. They also do well in low-lying areas near swamps, ponds and lakes. Thus, it does well in a variety of soils, particularly in moist, acidic soils with a lot of sunlight.
Aldo Leopold references an oak tree in A Sand County Almanac. Leopold describes the process of sawing through an oak tree and the years that it has lived on a farm that was destroyed by a bootlegger. Leopold describes that the bootlegger destroyed the farm even though the oak tree had “laid down good wood for him.” This represents how humans should respect the trees (oaks) that give us so much.
I am really looking forward to spending more time with my tree this semester and to observe its physical transition into fall!
Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1949. Print.