Windward Community College will be getting new trees this December, thanks to a grant from the Arbor Day Foundation.
According to anthropology assistant professor and sustainability committee chair Christian Palmer, the college is partnering with the Outdoor Circle, which wrote the grant, to plant 20 to 30 new trees on the southern edge of the Great Lawn and a few in the middle of the lawn. These trees will replace the Chinese banyan trees that were diseased and removed for safety reasons.
The news trees, which will mostly be 3- to 6-feet tall saplings from local nurseries, will include more indigenous and canoe plants such as loulu palms and kukui nut trees to promote the greater biodiversity that is unique to Hawai‘i.
These new plants “can provide seed banks for future reforestation efforts and can educate people about Hawaiian plants and ethnobotany,” Palmer said.
Because the trees will need tending while growing in an urban area, the grant includes funds for maintenance, such as watering the trees three times a week, removing weeds, providing nutrients and structural pruning.
Trees, in general, provide numerous benefits to the WCC community. They create a natural aesthetic and prevent the scenery from being dominated by buildings. They also add to one’s philosophical and spiritual development.
According to botany professor Teena Michaels, “Each tree could be seen as being a kinolau, which is the embodiment of a Hawaiian god or goddess.”
In other words, in Hawaiian culture, every tree can be seen as an incarnation of an important deity.
Because of this, trees are an important cornerstone in people’s spiritual enlightenment or the moment when people become familiar with the Hawaiian concept of ‘āina where land is something that should not be exploited at the expense of the living beings that call it home but something that should be appreciated, cared for and preserved to support future generations.
For those who aren’t spiritual, there are environmental reasons why trees are important. First, they absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen, which all living beings need to survive. When absorbing sunlight via photosynthesis, they convert light energy from the sun into chemical energy that allows them to grow.
Second, the canopy of trees, which offers shade for people looking to escape from the heat, also holds water that can cool the surrounding area and provides a habitat for birds and insects.
For more information on the new trees on campus, contact Christian Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Shaun Cashen, Special to Ka ‘Ohana