When Adam regales me of his day, I tend to zone out because it usually sounds something like, “Today I looked at the effects of water velocity on the attachment rates of a parasitic spore to salmon…”
Yeah. Fascinating. But today, he told me about a woman he heard speak at a conference that even caught my short attention span. Nalini Nadkarni, an environmental studies professor at The Evergreen State College in Washington is combining art and science to motivate everyone to care more about the environment. More specifically: trees.
People say trees don’t move. As if by taking away movement, we dehumanize them. To make trees look less than human makes it easier to bulldoze over thousands of acres every day. To illustrate that trees are living, breathing beings, Nalini discussed her experiment of tying a paint brush, dipped in green paint, to the branch of a Douglas Fur. She let the wind move the branch around and paint brush strokes on a piece paper for a couple minutes. Then, she took measurements of those strokes, calculated the number of branches and needles and estimated that this single trees moves over 180,000 miles in a year.
This is just one of the many innovative ways she is trying to give nature a voice and make people appreciate and respect the environment. What I love about this message is that by combining science and art, she gives nature a human side. In English class we call this personification—to give human characteristics to non-living things. But the point is, trees are living things—we’ve just been taught to ignore that. If everyone followed Nalini and took their own passions to a creative level to reach a larger audience, imagine what we could accomplish. It takes people like her to make a difference. I think we should all make tree branches paint for a day and then hang those pictures in our homes and offices. How beautiful would that be?