What Earth Day Means to Me
Meet our San Francisco Bay Area Youth Ambassador, Nicolette, as she reflects on the essential role of trees and conservation in our changing world.
by Nicolette Gualino
During the Covid-19 pandemic we have counted our losses: the gap in education, strained relationships, and lack of planning. But as my city slowly adjusts to yet another “new-normal," did we ever think that environmental restoration might be our last priority?
In the spring and summer of 2020, the lockdown forced all of the residents in my county to remain at home while we struggled to stay connected through computers, laptops, and phones. Covid protocols such as masking became associated with political opinions instead of public health. Families and friends were torn apart by their differences and many became unemployed. Racial discrimination also became very prominent, and women in the workplace were not treated as equal to men and were forced to take on additional household responsibilities.
People flocked to grocery stores and food drives to hoard food and toiletries. When volunteering at a local organization to pass out food to the poor, I witnessed how people drove to the facility in large empty vans, beckoning volunteers to fill their vehicles with as much food as could possibly fit. This was unfair to the people patiently waiting in line for their meals who walked away hungry those nights.
Similarly, my local schools also faced these problems. My own school library has experienced tremendous losses with books not being returned. These book losses are district wide, and our libraries are suffering with a book replacement cost of over $8,600.
How could my community become this careless? Now in celebration of Earth Day, with this new year and its many promises, I reflect on my “urban forest,” which also seems to be pushed off the radar.
In this time of reflection, I began to think about my city: Redwood City, California. I wanted to know what local actions Redwood City was taking to preserve the very Redwood Trees that the city was named after. Redwoods are beautiful trees which grow to towering heights and enhance the overall beauty of my city. The timber that these trees produce is very valuable because of its strong red wood.
Sadly, many Redwood forests in California have been cut down once or twice over the last century, and less than five percent of Redwood forests are old-growth trees. This makes it even more important that these trees are restored through conservation efforts.
My family and I recently visited Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. This park is famous for preserving a 40-acre grove of old-growth Redwoods. The tallest tree in the park is 277 feet tall and is around 1,500 years old!
To learn more about the Redwoods in my community, I contacted the city’s arborist. Sadly, I was told that all tree-restoring efforts in Redwood City have been limited due to the pandemic. It was upsetting to learn that my city put less focus on the preservation and regrowth of its Redwood Trees during this important time.
It seemed to me that Redwood City could have used this past year during the pandemic to grow our “urban forest” and lessen our environmental footprint. Instead, as a community, we chose not to step up to this responsibility.
This experience showed me that not only are trees “essential” for retaining natural beauty but also elevate our quality of life. I believe that celebrating the earth is the best way to start taking care of it. Conservation is a group effort, and I am proud to be a part of the OliveSeed team!
About the Author
Nicolette Gualino is OliveSeed's Bay Area Youth Ambassador, promoting the cause since September 2020. She's very active in her community of Redwood City, most recently volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club to distribute food to families in need. In early 2021, Nicolette ran her own fundraiser for OliveSeed to help fund a school library in Kenya, and she presented her fundraiser and OliveSeed's mission at an online event at her school.
Nicolette is passionate about education, gender equity, and the environment. She will begin 9th grade this fall and looks forward to amplifying her voice and these causes in this next chapter of life.