By Krystel Malimban, POST Communications Intern
When you hear “tree hugger,” do you think “darn hippies!” or “that’s me!” or somewhere in between? Whatever your opinion of the term, it describes people who identify as environmentalists and advocate sustainable lifestyles.
You might have assumed that the label is meant to be figurative, but did you know it’s actually quite literal? While there are a few alternative theories, most scholars agree that Chipko activists, in India in the 1970s, were the first tree huggers.
The Chipko movement started when Indian villagers began literally embracing trees in their local forest to prevent lumber companies from cutting them down. Since chipko means “to stick or cling” in Hindi, the movement was given the name Chipko. Their local forests were essential to the economy and welfare of their local villages, and so the Chipko activists (fun fact: they were mostly women!) felt compelled to take action to save them.
They were inspired by India’s long history of nonviolent protests. Back in 1730, a group called the Bishnoi sacrified their lives to protect a forest of sacred Khejri trees, and, more recently, Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha, or truth force. In the end, the Chipko protest proved successful: a committee from the state capital sided with the villagers and stopped the planned clear-cut.
The success of the Chipko Movement, in turn, has inspired many of the nonviolent protests that have followed it. The negative tone modern environmentalism can take (especially in the light of climate change woes) makes hearing stories of past environmental successes all the more important. In addition, the Chipko movement should make 21st-century environmentalists proud – their success proves that being labeled a treehugger is a compliment!
So, we give thanks this Arbor Day for the Chipko activists, who paved the way for organizations like POST to protect our local landscapes, and the trees that stand within them. And next time you’re in a forest, feel free to give the nearest tree a big hug.
Have a happy Arbor Day, everyone!
By Harvey Gaylin, member of POST’s Open Space Legacy Society
As a fellow supporter of Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), I want to share my story with you.
My wife, Gina Holmes, a Southern California native, fell in love with the San Mateo coast 28 years ago while helping a friend move. Six months later, we moved to El Granada from Los Angeles. We became active in the community—we joined the successful battle for the Devil’s Slide Tunnel instead of a multi-lane freeway over Montara Mountain, and helped form the Midcoast Community Council to protect the environment, agricultural land and greenbelts.
Coming from the densely populated LA basin, we savored the Peninsula: the redwoods, Butano State Park, the ocean, all the open space. Gina was very nature-oriented. She volunteered as a docent at Año Nuevo State Park and as a naturalist at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
It was Gina’s love for open spaces and wildlife as well as my great empathy for POST’s mission that led me to my decision. After she passed, I made plans to leave everything to POST. We don’t have children, but this memorial for Gina will help preserve what gave her joy for future generations.
A lot has been done to preserve open space so far, and a lot is still at risk. Our house is modest—at the time of our relocation I sold photographs and Gina sold animal sculptures on the art show circuit—but it has increased in value over the years, and will help POST sustain their wonderful work.
Even at age 74, I love hiking with POST. They recently led a tour on the Wicklow property in El Granada which lets hikers go from Quarry Park, a mile from my house, up to the coastal ridges.
Thank you for your support of POST. Together, we have a meaningful, lasting impact on this beautiful area we call home.
Learn more about POST’s planned giving program, the Open Space Legacy Society, and how you can include POST in your estate plans here.
By Krystel Malimban, POST Communications Intern
This past weekend, I visited Ed Levin County Park in Milpitas for the first time in years. While others may not find it to be the most extraordinary bit of open space in the Bay Area, it’s a park that holds a very special place in my heart.
Growing up, my dad regularly suggested my family have small picnics in the mountains. Ed Levin County Park is the one park my immediate family would visit regularly to reconnect. Every other Saturday, we would get up, buy some fast food, and drive 20 minutes east to have a special family breakfast in the Diablo foothills. Although my family hasn’t always been active, we’ve always had a great appreciation for outdoor space.
My family emigrated from the Philippines to the Bay Area starting in the late 1980s. Relocation began with my dad’s eldest sister, which started a long chain of my dad’s siblings and, eventually, my mom and her family to Santa Clara, CA.
My large Filipino family makes an effort to have a camping trip in national parks every summer. Camping usually comprises of moving our regular Filipino parties outdoors, which means sitting outside eating food the whole time. One time, I kid you not, we packed a generator so we could use our karaoke system outdoors.
As strange as my family might sound, the one thing that is truly important to us is our connection. No matter where my family is, whether in the Philippines, in the Bay Area suburbs, or out in open space, we would enjoy each other’s company and food. But the great thing about the outdoors, for my family, is its escape from the distractions: a place that we could truly just enjoy time together without wi-fi.
This past weekend’s trip to Ed Levin County Park was a great refresher because I was able to remember and appreciate the gift that seclusion brings. A hike into the local foothills is a great step back from the blinders that city life place on our eyes. I rediscovered personal connections with family members that I hadn’t made in a long time.
I’ve always appreciated the San Francisco Bay Area because in one small pocket of the world, you have everything you could possibly ever need. This area is a great, unique system of intertwining fruitful cities and sublime landscapes that are dependent on each other.
Life is about connections, whether it’s with the people around you or with the land. As I celebrate Earth month this April, I feel lucky to live in the Bay Area, where you can do both.
This Cesar Chavez Day, we’re celebrating all the farmers and farm workers that work so hard to make California’s agricultural output the nation’s largest.
The San Francisco Peninsula was historically largely agricultural, thanks to its rich, fertile soils, and was actually the world’s largest fruit-production and packing region until the 1960s. Silicon Valley was originally referred to as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, thanks to the bountiful apricot and prune orchards that blanketed the Peninsula before the digital revolution switched trees for tech.
Though much of that agricultural land has been lost to development, a significant amount remains, and working to preserve that farmland and the livelihoods of those who farm it is a vital part of POST’s mission. Making sure this farmland is protected in perpetuity gives Bay Area residents access to a wealth of healthy, local food choices and boosts the local economy, all while protecting scenic landscapes, water resources, and wildlife habitat. POST supports sustainable, local food production by protecting farmland and selling and leasing land to local farmers and ranchers.
POST has protected a wide variety of farms and ranches on the San Francisco Peninsula. Blue House Farm, Pie Ranch, and Root Down Farm are just a few examples of innovative young farmers committed to sustainably feeding their local communities. Each of these farms offers a unique combination of vegetables, fruits, flowers, meat, and dry goods for sale, and all three are located on POST-protected land in Pescadero.
You can learn more about these farms, and other farms POST has protected here.
You can help POST keep local farms in production as a consumer, too! Get your fill of tasty local fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats at local farmers markets and through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.
So today, take a minute to think about where your food comes from and give thanks for the hard work of the people who make it all happen.
Happy Cesar Chavez Day!
POST recently met its $50 million fundraising goal for the Heart of the Redwoods campaign six months ahead of schedule, and it’s not hard to see why our supporters are so excited about saving the redwoods: as one of the most iconic California species, the trees speak for themselves. But it’s not just their inspirational qualities that make redwoods so important to protect – redwoods are utterly essential to California’s coastal forest ecosystems. In celebration of the Heart of the Redwoods campaign, and the 20,000 acres of redwoods it will help protect, here are five of the coolest facts about redwoods:
1) They Make Their Own Rain
Huge redwoods require massive amounts of water to survive, and it’s extremely difficult to transport groundwater all the way to leaves in their upper canopies. Solution? Redwoods make their own rain – getting 15 to 45% of their water directly from coastal fog, which they are able to pull straight out of the air thanks to specially shaped leaves. The remaining fog drips down to nourish the redwood’s roots and the plant communities below.
2) They Grow Their Own Defenses
One reason redwoods are so long-lived (some trees have been alive since the age of the Roman Empire!) is that their bark is like armor, thanks to built-in physical and chemical protection. It is tough, spongy, and so thick that it allows the trees to survive wildfires, but it also has high levels of toxic tannins that protect thetrees from fungus and insect infestations. In fact, redwoods are so resilient that they are rarely felled by disease or predation, instead only falling to human logging or competition with other redwoods for sunlight.
3) They Create Their Own Ecosystems
Because they are so large and live so long, a single redwood tree can act as an apartment complex for a vast array of other organisms. Over many years, leaf litter and dust from the highest redwood branches float down and land on lower branches, creating mats of nutrient-rich soil far above the actual forest floor. These ecosystems, called epiphyte communities have been observed to host up to 282 species of plants, fungi, and animals – including new redwood trees – all within a single tree. One old-growth redwood tree boasted 148 resprouted trunks growing from its own limbs, the largest of which was itself over 40 meters tall.
4) They’re Worth Their Weight in Gold (Er, Carbon)
Redwoods continue to grow throughout their lives, adding up to 1.6 cubic meters of girth every year. Because trees are composed of about 50% carbon by weight, each redwood sequesters an incredible amount of carbon from the atmosphere – and that’s not even counting the extensive underground root systems! Studies estimate that coastal redwood forests sequester triple the aboveground carbon of any other type of forest, which means that redwoods are a key player in mitigating climate change.
5) They May Be Dying Off
Scarily enough, a recent study showed half of California’s large redwoods have died in the past 90 years, and it’s highly unlikely that the next generation of trees will grow to be as tall as our current stands are. Though we don’t know exactly why the trees are dying, likely culprits include climate change, logging, and overzealous fire suppression (which has resulted in more small trees that much vie for fewer resources). It’s a sobering fact, and one that may have global consequences in light of redwood forests’ outsized role in carbon sequestration. All the more reason to protect our remaining redwood forests!
Vivian Underhill, Conservation Landscape Assistant
Learn more about redwood ecology with these links:
POST supporters and advocates make our work possible. Whether making a donation, leading a hike, telling a friend about our work, or liking us on Facebook, we have many people cheering us on. We often say, “The results are all around you.” And it’s true. Today I am thrilled to announce that we have reached our $50M financing goal for our Heart of the Redwoods Campaign – six months ahead of schedule. To date, the campaign has protected 9,875 acres of local redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and this financing makes it possible to continue our work to protect over 10,000 more.
We could not have done it without our donors and conservation partners. During the campaign, we felt it was extremely powerful to get out into the redwoods. We did that with over 100 POST-led outings including hiking, biking, spelunking and even horseback riding. We hosted hiking groups, book clubs, Millennials, kids and donors who’ve been supporting us since our founding in 1977. Spending time among these natural giants is amazing and clearly moved all of us to take action.
Like our donors, the entire POST staff has been deeply committed to the preservation of these forests for wildlife habitat, human enjoyment, the ecological benefits they provide, and their ability to link four state parks into 100,000 square acres of protected open space. Everyone from our land staff, to our advancement and administrative teams, played a role. It has been a broad and far-reaching campaign and our staff pursued it with intensity, creativity, graciousness and professionalism. It has been wonderful to see POST staff connect with POST donors and partners over the last three years to make this vision a reality.
There is so much to celebrate about this important milestone. We now have the financial capacity to protect the next 10,000 acres and are ready to go to work. I hope the next time you look out at the rolling hills, open coast side or mighty redwoods, you are proud of what we’ve accomplished together.