Speaking for the Trees - Daniel Johnson ‘21

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

My name is Daniel Johnson, a senior Philosophy major with a minor in Public health and Mathematics. When I was a freshman, as many are fated to do, I found myself sampling the pot of extracurriculars that life on campus afforded me. In my cohort (‘21), and the Levine Scholars Program as a whole, it’s almost impossible to not be friends with a biology major so when my friends mentioned tree-planting for extra credit in one of their biology courses and an opportunity for volunteer hours I tagged along to breathe some fresh air and muddy my hands a bit.  The organization behind this tree planting was a nonprofit named TreesCharlotte.  I would go on to do a few more tree plantings that year, but my sophomore and junior years were spent volunteering weekends differently leaving my friends and I with nostalgia for the tree-planting experience. This academic year things have come full circle; I completed the certification to become a TreeMaster and TreeAmbassador, meaning I will be leading tree planting events, tree giveaways, and other functions that the organization may initiate. 

Since my freshman year, I’ve worked at our university’s literary arts magazine, joined a Christian Philosophy book club, worked on the executive position in our Black Student Union, participated in a couple of research projects, and so many more varied exposures in nearly every avenue that I possessed interest in. My academic path has been just as winding as my extracurricular involvements. Through our university’s Philosophy department, I’ve been able to study and formulate a system of ethics that is inclusive of all manners of people, animals, and environment, a mindset that is necessary to take us into the turbulent future we have created with our currently unsustainable practices. Working with TreesCharlotte will be the first step in my goal of becoming a farmer, which for me is a self-liberating journey to knock down the artificial barrier that we’ve created between ourselves and nature. 

To do my part in sharing about TreesCharlotte, I’ll pause on my personal narrative here and share the pertinent context behind this non-profit’s creation and purpose. The mission of TreesCharlotte, aside from the rekindling of an appreciation for nature in an urban setting, is the very specific goal of 50 percent coverage of Charlotte’s tree canopy by the year 2050. Contrary to what is generally advertised about the city of Charlotte: banking, breweries, and sports, etc., there is an underappreciated vibrancy of the outdoors compared to other urban centers. There is a great deal of effort underlying the maintenance and growth of this tree canopy because our valued tree coverage consists of a large population of mature trees reaching the end of their natural lifespan, while the canopy suffers significant losses from development as the city grows. Though the volunteer network is expansive, it is as good a time as any to go move and connect outdoors. Keep an eye out for weekend tree plantings and giveaways near you!