By Executive Director John Myers
Published October 21, 2020
in the Cedar Rapids Gazette
Troubling events like the pandemic and derecho challenge us all, but they also provide a major opportunity. Change is nature’s way of dealing with environmental challenges. The recent storm in Eastern Iowa, hurricanes in the south, and wildfires out west have something amazing in common. Immediately after these events, nature quickly showed signs of rebirth. Seeds lying in the ground, some dormant for many years, finally had sunlight reach them through the now bare soil and sprouted new growth. Many look at this as a sign of hope for our future; however, there is something more that we should find in this growth — something that requires us to act now.
A regrowing forest can quickly become overcrowded with fast-growing and aggressive plants and trees of low environmental quality, proliferating the ground, taking over the forest floor and depleting the required water and sun away from those mighty trees we want to grow. Only with a focused effort to diversify the species we plant can we create the forest and landscape that we want for our children and grandchildren.
Healthy forests require tender, focused care when the trees are young. Planting diverse types of trees builds resiliency and celebrates each species for the benefits they provide for the forest. Sycamores, paw paws, and kentucky coffee trees are just as important as the oaks and maples in a strong forest.
Seeds of change have sprouted this year, but not just in the forest. Changes are occurring throughout the world, as well as right here in our community. We’ve had to change the way we educate our children because of the pandemic; continued injustice set fire to an already boiling social justice movement; and disaster brought the opportunity to re-envision our tree canopy and environmental practices.
As a community our charge is to nurture these seedlings so that they may grow into the mighty trees we want for future generations. Now is the time to commit to equity for all and support new ways of educating our kids. If we aren’t intentional about these goals, our lives and community will become like the forest floor: bent and broken because of lack of foresight and healthy diversity. We will fight the same challenges for years if we don’t rise up to these opportunities for change now.
For our part, Indian Creek Nature Center will nurture these new seedlings within the organization. We are taking an intentional approach to adapt our education strategy to ensure that children can continue to receive immersive, outdoor education. We have begun massive land restoration and new trail development projects. We embrace the need for diversity and we will ensure our programs and facilities are respectful of all cultures.
Nature has always shown us how to live — diversity in our ecosystem is critical. As we mourn the changes in our lives and landscape, our charge is to ensure that we don’t let this year’s disasters pass us by. We must nurture the new and diverse growth we want to see for future generations and stifle the dangerous ideas, habits and environmental practices that were the very causes of these disasters. Only then can we truly regrow into the mighty forest and community we all want.