Part One of the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend
October 1, 2011
Held at the Three Rivers Arts Center
At the 5th annual Green Faire, one of our long time devoted gatekeepers, Annie Esperanza, Air Quality Specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, will give a morning presentation on the effects of air quality on the ecosystems that include our Giant Sequoias. Her 10 am presentation will be followed at 11 am with a presentation by Janelle Schneider of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. At 2 pm in the afternoon, the California Native Plant Society will present a talk by Melanie Keeley. A variety of information and artist’s booths will round out the Saturday event. We hope to see you there.
“World Tree” watercolor © Mona Fox Selph
by Mona Fox Selph, artist
and founder of the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend
My ﬁrst memories are of trees. The shade of the peach tree under which I made mud pies at age two or three, and coaxed my little friend to eat , for which I was punished. I remember the incident because in my childhood fantasy world, I only understood it was wrong after I was punished. At four, the apple tree I climbed with my older brother and a few neighborhood children.
It was there that the other kids shared with me the astonishing facts of life … where babies came from and how they got there. It was so shocking to me that I nearly fell out of the tree. Years later, when I was in fourth grade in Bad Wildungen Germany, a huge spreading tree near a brook was the meeting place of all the American children of the area. We claimed favorite
spots on favorite limbs, and some dared others to climb higher. In my memory, the tree was kind to us children. No one ever suffered more than a skinned knee.
I owe much of my environmental awareness to my father. He almost worshipped trees, perhaps a thread of his very DNA. His ancestors came from the British Isles, home to tree worshipping Druids. The exception was a Cherokee grandmother several generations back. American Indians believed that all of nature was alive and imbued with spirit. Both of my father!s parents were teachers, but in those days almost everyone was a farmer as well, so he grew up on a farm near Franklin, Tennessee, and lived close to nature. My father seemed to know every tree in the South. There are some 750 species of trees growing wild north of the Mexican border. On walks, my father would show us children how one oak leaf differed slightly from another, and so how to correctly name
As an Army ofﬁcer, my dad had traveled to many parts of the country and the world, but until his retirement, only brieﬂy to California where my young family ended up. If I have ever seen transcendence on a person’s face, it was that of my father when we brought him and our young children to Sequoia Park for the ﬁrst time. I thought he would burst with joy when he saw his ﬁrst Giant Sequoia. He stared in wonder, transﬁxed. The image of his face that day is burned into my memory.
He was an environmentalist before most people were familiar with the concept. For years, he sent our family gift subscriptions to Rodale Magazine. He and my mother purchased 100 hectares in Brazil, where prior to my brother!s tragic accident that made him quadriplegic, my parents had hoped to retire. After their owning it outright and paying taxes for years, a new mandate from the Brazilian government demanded “development” of the area, including fencing and clear cutting a huge part of it. My father refused, and because of his inability to expend the time and energy to legally ﬁght the decision due to my brother’s medical needs, the Brazilian government conﬁscated the land. I could recount at least three or four other instances of his personal environmental protectionism of forests and trees.
My ex-husband was a rocket scientist at Edwards Air Force Base in the high Mojave Desert, so that is where we raised our children. I learned to appreciate the special beauty of the desert when it was awash with wildﬂowers, or blanketed in snow, or on nights brilliant with countless stars. And all the more so in those times, because most days were brown expanses below and blue expanses above, sometimes cloudless and unchanging for nearly nine months of the year. Yet all of those decades, my senses yearned for trees, a craving much like my father!s, perhaps from his DNA to mine.
Since I moved here [Three Rivers] in 1981, I have always said that people here live in “almost Paradise”. The “almost” refers to the air quality and summer heat. The “Paradise” refers to the rest. We have mountains, rivers, lakes and we have TREES. We have trees that are the largest and most magniﬁcent on earth, and nearly the oldest. People come from all over the world to experience them, and we below are the gate keepers. We are charged with the responsibility for their health and well being. Strong and resilient as they are, what we do here below them affects their future. Although they beneﬁt from occasional ﬁres as part of their reproductive and environmental health, they and the other trees of their ecosystem also need clean air to thrive.
In the early eighties, with a few ﬁlm classes at California State University Northridge under my belt, I assisted in the production of a training ﬁlm for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, called “Fire Ecology in Sequoia Park”. In 1984, 1985, and 1986, I was part of a team, trained by Dr. Paul Miller and others, that established Baseline plots for measuring ozone damage to yellow pines and other species in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia Park, and Saguaro National Monument.
Strangely, when my children were small, I had clipped and saved an article from the newspaper about Paul’s Miller’s research into the causes for the demise of many trees in the San Gabriel Mountains. In early controlled studies in the laboratories, he showed that as little as three weeks of gassing of young trees with ozone produced chlorotic mottle and necrosis (death) of pine needles. Ground level ozone is one of several components of air pollution, and in the case of the Los Angeles air basin, increasing vehicular trafﬁc was a large part of the problem. He and others after him continued to do ﬁeld research in many California forests.
My participation in the establishment of baseline study plots was probably one of the most arduous and difﬁcult challenges of my life, but one I felt very privileged to be part of.
My father died too early decades ago, but I feel blessed that he lived long enough to see his daughter carry on as much as possible, his great love for trees. I know that gave him pleasure in his ﬁnal days. We at the gateway to our mountains are called to cherish and protect our trees. They and all of the others and their ecosystems elsewhere on the planet are the great lungs of the world, vital to life itself.
Green Home Tour:
Part Two of the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend
October 2, 2011
Held Throughout Three Rivers
The ﬁfth annual Green Home Tour in Three Rivers is part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Tour, featuring active or passive solar applications in homes and buildings. The ﬁve homes also incorporate many other creative green ideas, some as part of the original construction plan, and others as post construction solutions. Included this year will be one where the home-owners live in a log home, raise and preserve their own food, but have all of the conveniences their off-grid solar power provides.
This year, as in the past, the tours will raise funds to promote responsible building and development in Tulare County. In the past, recipients of the proceeds from the tour have included Habitat for Humanity’s Green Building Fund, Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth,and the Sierra Club’s Kern Kaweah Chapter.
Tours are 25 minutes at each of the ﬁve home sites reached by carpool caravan, and require advance registration. Tours start at noon and 1 pm. Tickets are $15 per person, $25 per couple. Call Mona Selph at 561-4676 to sign up.