Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences
Minutes of the CAAS 1422nd Meeting
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
at New Haven Lawn Club
Lecture by: Eric Rutkow, author of American Canopy, and Ph.D. candidate at Yale University — “Proposing the Future: Why Americans Plant Tree.”
The first meeting of the new academic year was attended by some 40 members and guests and 25 stayed for dinner. The meeting was called to order by President Ernest Kohorn, who reminded members that the October meeting will include a business meeting with election of officers and will start at 4:30 pm. He challenged members to make a commitment to bring at least two potential new members to each of this year’s meetings. His own term of office will end in December. He asked members to think about becoming more active in the affairs of the Academy and to volunteer to serve on various committees.
Member Carolyn Cooper introduced the speaker, Eric Rutkow, author of American Canopy, and Ph.D. candidate at Yale University. The topic of his presentation: Proposing the Future: Why Americans Plant Tree.
Based on his newly published book, which was available for sale and signing after the meeting, Mr. Rutkow talked about how this nation has been shaped by the planting of trees. He specifically identified and talked about four stages of tree planting: Post Revolution, Post Civil War, Post World Wars, and the present. There were key developments in each period. The Post Revolution period carried forward the planting of apple orchards which had been an important part of the colonization of America. Apples produced hard cider, the major staple drink of the colonial and post colonial eras. In 1767 the average annual consumption of apple cider was 7 barrels per family. Johnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman) spread the practice of planting apple orchards through the expansion toward the west. Over time, as German immigrants arrived, beer took the place of hard cider in many areas. The temperance movement was also influential in reducing the hard cider consumption over time.
J. Sterling Morton introduced tree planting to Nebraska as a political project. He proposed Arbor Day. There was a theory at the time that trees can attract rain, badly needed in the mid-West. The tree planters were also concerned about timber farming and potential for excessive logging denuding the countryside. By 1900 the trees-bring-water theory had been dismissed but tree planting was still important. The first president to introduce a Forest Policy was Theodore Roosevelt, though Franklin Delano Roosevelt planted more trees.
During the third phase, between the world Wars and after, Franklin Roosevelt’s policies used tree planting for job creation through the Civilian Tree Conservation force. The CTC at one point employed 2.5 million men known as Roosevelt’s Tree Army. The war economy shifted job market toward weapons production and the CTC was terminated in 1942. Weyerhaeuser Corporation started a program to manage timber as a crop, with systematic tree replacement and targeted lumbering, a model eventually adopted by other lumber companies.
The current shift in tree culture is influenced by climate change/shift. Scientists are in agreement that humanly caused carbon emission is accelerating global warming. A new tree planting program was initiated under the first President Bush. It is estimated that 10 billion new trees absorb most carbon emission. Corporations are now jumping into tree planting at the rate of 50 million trees per year.
Eric Rutkow gave a thought provoking presentation. He considers the current tree planting movement a hopeful act, as it is hard to ignore the effect on the environment. Our society has to weigh how to balance job growth needs with environmental concerns. The audience added thoughtful questions and amusing anecdotes to the presentation.