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  • Jennifer Jewell


Lauren Oakes, in situ among Alaskan Yellow Cedar stand. Image courtesy of Lauren E. Oakes.


Here in my part of the world, it’s back to school time! Lower schools, high school and university students, faculty and staff are shaking off their summer ease and getting back into academic curiosity and discovery.

In that spirit, this week Cultivating Place is joined by Dr. Lauren E. Oakes, a conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and an adjunct professor in Earth System Science at Stanford University. As an applied scientist and adaptation scientist, Lauren is working to model how people can adapt at local levels to the GLOBAL climate crisis.

Her book In Search of the Canary Tree: the Story of a Scientist, a Cypress and a Changing World (is the chosen Book in Common for the City of Chico, California State University, Chico, Butte College, Butte County Libraries, and other interested parties this coming academic year.

Lauren joins us today from her home office to share more about her journey and her PhD research work studying the last decades’ die off of large stands of ancient and venerable Alaskan Yellow Cedar, and more specifically what their lives in response to a heating globe can teach all of us about reality, adaptation, and relationship.

Lauren's work and the process of writing this more layperson's account of the work taught her a lot more about herself and expanded her own understanding of relationship and meaningful action in our rapidly changing world.

"I was interested in this question of what happens next. If we accept that climate change is having some sort of impact, then how are we going to respond to it? How is the environment responding to it, and what do we learn from that."

Dr. Lauren E. Oakes, author of "In Search of the Canary Tree"

As part of the BOOK IN COMMON program, Lauren will be a featured speaker at a CSU, Chico's Laxson Auditorium on April 2, 2020, 7:30 pm. You can buy your tickets to see her then by following this link:

Follow Lauren's work at the Wildlife Conservation Society website and at their Instagram feed: thewcs

Join us again next week as the conversations continue with our second Back to School themed episode when we're joined by Baylor Chapman, author of Decorating with Plants, talking to us about how to green up any space - even dorm rooms, small apartments, even cubicles with beautiful living plants.



Thinking out Loud this week...


Can you believe it’s already back to school time, such an interesting cultural seasonal rite of passage taking place as students, staff and faculty return to their studies – as in the garden so too in life, garden friend Annie Redbird reminds us – and the garden is changing up her look and feel right now too. We’ve had a pretty mild summer so far here – just one real week of over 103 or so. And several weeks of just mid-90s, which is cool for us. All the same, the growing season is now getting on in age and the bloomers and producers look a bit tired – ready for their late summer harvests, or cut backs, for setting their seeds.

As we reflected in last week’s best of episode with Rowen White, we’re tending toward the Autumnal equinox later this month and we’re fully entering the showiest of the seed seasons of the year.

Are you following along with the #MYPLANTOFTHEMONTHCP challenge or practice on Instagram or by email with me? The Cultivating Place community started this last month as a communal learning practice – an intention to learn 1 new plant each month and share with each other what we learned – our new plant friend’s name, where they live, what conditions they like, who their friends are – that kind of thing. The kind of personal and contextual information you’d want to know about any new friend and to help you remember them and their name.

You all shared some great plants with me! You can see or read about other people’s shares using the hashtag #MYPLANT OFTHEMONTH CP on Instagram or in the most recent A View From Here newsletter, which went out this past week.

You can of course learn and share as many new plants a month as you’re called to – and while I am trying to focus on learning new to me native plants of my Northern California area your new plants can be from anywhere native to you or not. As one Instagram friend noted, we sometimes learn our native plants by learning which plants around us ARE NOT native first. For me this month, in the spirit of this seed season – #myplantofthemonthcp is one I learned because I noticed its seed head on a recent hike. It’s got one of the prettiest little seed heads I’ve ever seen. You can check it on the Cultivating Place Instagram or in this most recent A View from here Newsletter at – while you’re there – sign up to receive the newsletter by email if you’d like!

As we learn about the impacts of the climate crisis on the Alaskan Yellow Cedar – I feel a real urge to keep learning, appreciating, and lifting up all plants as just one tiny way of helping to change our human view of plants from being resources to instead being important relationships. This is a semantics and world view lesson I’ve taken even more to heart after reading Lauren Oakes In Search of the Canary Tree.

In light of this, I’m muddling over the world resilience. Like so many good words before it’s become something of a container for so many thoughts and hopes and concepts. It’s become trendy and can veer damn close to greenwashing in many – especially commercial contexts – which are often difficult to get away from.

But when you think about it with some real focus = what does it actually mean to you? What does it look like in the world around you? How can we support it as a characteristic of ourselves, our families, our communities, our gardens?

Early in our conversation, Lauren describes her efforts to employ an interdisciplinary, applied, problem solving approach to her work – her scientific research and her actions to making the world better – better prepared and more resilient in the face of challenges.

And when I heard this approach I thought – wait – that IS gardening. That's what our gardens do.

Those are all the elements of gardening.

And it’s exactly why my gardening practice and your gardening practice make each of us healthier, more adaptable and more creatively and resourcefully responsive to daily challenges; it’s why our combined gardening practices can and do make our families and communities and thus world more adaptable, more healthy and more yes – more resilient in the face of the many challenges we see around us and before us.

So go to the garden – and lead with your very best self back into the world from there. It is not a resource – it is a relationship that fills us in important ways.




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