For tonight’s episode of Going Deep with David Rees, we caught up with arborist Dr. Margaret Lowman, aka Canopy Meg, an amazing lady and one of the world’s foremost experts on trees. Canopy Meg’s tree-top exploration has taken her all over the world and she has discovered some surprising things along the way. She’s a huge proponent for forest conservation and she spends a great deal of time educating the masses of our forests’ critical role for life on earth. Meg was kind enough to answer a few questions about the most beautiful roof on earth, our incredible forests.
NGC: Why should we care about trees?
Canopy Meg: Trees are the building blocks of life on Earth. In short, we could not live if trees were not part of our environment. Trees are one of the most successful “machines” that transform sunlight into energy and food for all the food chains on earth. In addition, they conserve water, reduce soil erosion, provide shade, create home for up to half of the species on our planet, give us medicines and food and building materials, provide spiritual sanctuary, and store carbon. And they do all of this literally while we sleep! Unlike babies or pets, we do not need to water and feed them, or even get a babysitter when we leave them home alone.
NGC: The tree and you: what are some surprising things that we share with trees?
Canopy Meg: We share a lot with trees!!! Obviously, they are the basis of our ability to live on Planet Earth! But even more than that, they are the place where our ancestors evolved — ancient homonoids lived in forests! How cool is that! And trees continue to provide us with sanctuary.
NGC: Tell us a little more about where the 3% – the original forests left in America.
Canopy Meg: America logged most of her original forests. We are fortunate that temperate trees can grow back fairly quickly, and so many secondary forests now exist. They are essentially regrowth, but not the original forests. Only tiny pockets of original forest exist — the Joyce Kilmer stand in North Carolina, Muir Woods and a few other redwood pockets in California, some secret and fairly hidden beech/maple stands in New England, and a few amazing islands of forests scattered throughout the country embedded in parks or as private property. The sad thing about our history of clearing forests in America is that we do not really know what used to live in our forest canopies or what might be extinct or missing from the secondary forests. We will never know these answers, but we can at least help other countries minimize a similar loss. That is why I am passionate about working in Ethiopia, Peru, Cameroon, and India — countries that do not have extensive forest research expertise and infrastructure.
NGC: What kind of actions are you taking to minimize the loss of original forests in other countries?
Canopy Meg: In northern Ethiopia, we are urgently trying to save the last remaining 5% of forests. The definition of “we” in this case is hundreds of Ethiopian Coptic priests and myself. It is the “power of one” and by educating the priests about ecosystem services and the value of their remaining trees, we are now partnering to build beautiful stone walls around their church yards. Eureka! In Ethiopia, the only remaining forests are in the church yards, but they are fast shrinking due to cattle grazing, harvesting firewood around the edges, and selective cutting within. Now, due to our unique partnership of religion and science, the priests and I are successfully conserving these remaining forests.
If you want to help, buy my new book, BEZA – Who Saved the Forests of Ethiopia, One Church at a Time, on amazon.com. This story about how kids can help save forests is an important conservation lesson. And for every English book sold, one copy in Ahmaric (native language in Ethiopia) will be distributed free to an Ethiopian child!
NGC: What can we learn from trees?
Canopy Meg: I recently spoke at a College Commencement and told the students to live like trees:
1. Appreciate your roots
2. Drink lots of water
3. Provide sanctuary for others
5. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb once in a while
6. Be productive. Trees can teach us a lot!
Hilariousness ensues in the video below when Canopy Meg tells David Rees about her device called a ‘pooter’ and other incredible things about forests in the Muir Woods.
Be sure to catch tonight’s Going Deep with David Rees: How to Climb A Tree at 10P!