Felled trees teach bad lesson

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not the only truths that are self-evident.

In fact, a couple of others are even more obvious. Such facts as: A classroom is not the only environment in which learning takes place; and most often what we do as adults is far more instructive than what we say. These facts are at the very heart of the American way of learning.

Experience, however, has taught me that these tenets are more often honored in the breach than in the observance.

Imagine our pain and disgust as my family and I drove past the Harborview Elementary School site to find that part of the updating and remodeling of the school included cutting down the majestic old-growth trees that had helped to blend the school into its environment so beautifully. Trees that were older than Juneau itself have been thoughtlessly leveled, without a call for public comment, without a care for what such an inhuman act is teaching our young.

We spend hours inside the classroom conveying to our students the sacred nature of our surroundings, how the beauty of Alaska and particularly of Juneau is a treasure that must be protected at all costs. All the efforts put into Litter-Free Pickup Days and into Environmental Action clubs wither when our students see first-hand what unthinking adults, those hypocritical guardians of our cultural wisdom, do in the name of progress. No, not progress - expediency, fiscal expediency?

"Sacrifice an irreplaceable tree or six; save a buck or two?" That can't be it.

But what other reason could there be? Safety? The trees have been standing for two or three centuries. My guess is they'll not likely topple for another half millennia or so. Space? Need for another tether-ball court? Not likely. Sitting in the shade of a tree bigger than life itself, just enjoying nature's grandeur, outstrips tether-ball, dodge-ball, basketball and football combined.

To my young readers: Don't misinterpret the murder of Harborview's trees as permission to perform similar acts of vandalism. Rather take it for what it is - an example of an uncaring adult or three not taking the time to think, not realizing that this mindless act of terror will last far longer than any refurbished playground. Carry this lesson with you so that when it is your turn to make similar decisions, you do it with concern and love, not only for the beauty that surrounds you, but also for the fellow members of our society.

Bill Chalmers

Juneau-Douglas High School teacher

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