I just sat down to draft a new article on my website, when I received an email from Ruth, a friend in New Mexico. It was a notification of Fred’s passing. The Wilson’s were very special people that have influenced our lives in many ways. When Fred and I first met I became aware of the interest we shared in trees, forests and the natural world. We spent five months, the first winter, living adjacent to each other in an RV park, sharing many hours discussing our common interests. Fred was an accomplished musician, composer, educator and an inspiration of how a person, from a very poor back-ground, can achieve outstanding success. Fred’s book, “An American Tragedy as Seen Through the Eyes of a Little Black Boy” tells his life story. Ruth is a nationally recognized consultant in environmental education, and has significantly influenced the field of education through her work. Whenever I occasionally question why it is so difficult to reach people and to get them to appreciate the importance of the natural world in sustaining life on Earth, I think of Fred and his achievements. It provides the encouragement to keep going. Somehow, we must reach the people and redirect our current destruction of the natural world to the caring for and nurturing of our planet and what remains of the natural world.
Ruth has significantly expanded my knowledge of the detailed dependence humans have for forests and trees. She has written several books, developed environmental education curriculum's for public schools and advised national children’s TV programs on environmental presentations. Fred was a strong supporter of Ruth’s work and the contribution she has made to our youth. It has been a real privilege to share a friendship with them.
The example the Wilson’s have set, has encouraged me to continue my efforts to present the facts about what is happening to nature. Empirical observations during my career as a forest scientist, continued study and people like the Wilson’s have provided the incentive to reach out to others with the truth about our current natural world. We have discovered almost ten million different species of life on Earth and science tells us that at least 80% of these species require trees to sustain life. Today, only 26% of the original forested lands remain. We are continuing to deforest our remaining tree covered lands at the rate of twenty football fields every minute worldwide. Yes, we continue to plant new trees where possible, but plantations are void of the diversity found in natural stands of trees. Science is learning more about trees daily, how mother trees identify and communicate with their offspring, how trees communicate with each other and different species, and how trees share and support each other during stressful times. This is all good, but we need to understand more about the relationship’s humanity shares with trees. We need to start introducing our elementary students to ecological principles and to require our scientists to develop a strong ecological foundation prior to specializing in individual scientific areas.
It is my hope that 2023 will awaken the world to the necessity of changing our demanding way of life and manage the remaining natural world for future generations. People like the Wilson’s have been setting the example for some time, it is time for us to become actively involved!