Tag Archives: WLRN

Saving great trees – a new initiative Mabel would embrace

I was driving someplace recently and heard a story on NPR that made me think about Mabel.

In Coconut Grove, Florida, where Mabel lived part of each year from 1917 until the end of her life, there’s a fascinating initiative going on to map and measure trees. As reported by WLRN, researchers from Florida International University are attempting to map all the trees and categorize them in an effort to help residents and city officials make good and environmentally friendly decisions about maintaining trees and planting new ones.

For example, researchers believe that by categorizing trees they can also include “things like the money saved by a tree’s cooling effects, root systems that combat flooding and sea-level rise, along with potentially negative factors for certain species — messy fruits, root systems that threaten infrastructure, and the fact that some non-native trees can take over native habitats.” Some types of trees are therefore better to retain and to plant than others.

A painting by Howard Hilder, Mabel’s dear friend, of some great Florida trees

This is the kind of smart ecological data that will help home-owners and city officials, especially in this era of climate change. As I write this blog post, newscasters are warning about the potentially devastating effects of oncoming Hurricane Dorian – could there be a more dramatic example of why we need to think carefully and seriously about the impact of humankind on nature and nature on humankind?

This story also made me think of Mabel and Millicent. Mabel, who “loved great trees,” as Millicent once wrote, would have heartily applauded this project. Mabel’s love of trees led her to purchase the land outside of Amherst that later became the Mabel Loomis Todd Forest when Millicent donated it to Amherst College in 1961, and Hog Island, which became the Hog Island Audubon Camp in 1960.

Millicent, who was presciently aware of the effects of humans’ encroaching on the environment and the potentially devastating effects of introducing species to places different than those from which they originated, would also have embraced this project.

The fact that this initiative is occurring in Coconut Grove, where Mabel’s beloved Matsuba resided,

Exterior of Matsuba, Mabel’s home in Coconut Grove

would make it all the more appealing to her. Were she still alive, no doubt she would be a community leader in this project, as she was with so many others!