I step out of my door and onto the sidewalk of Philadelphia. I see stone, black top, crumbling brick and fast food containers laying in wrought iron gutters. I also see grass pushing between cracks in cement, I see dogs running in Clark Park, and trees dotting the cityscape. There is one, particular tree in Philadelphia that always catches my attention. It is a 30ft tall, 100+ year old, golden-leafed, Ginkgo tree. This tree is special, not just because of its size and color, because it represents a century of respect to the Earth.
My neighborhood was built between 1890-1908. It’s full of long, twin-style homes for prosperous dock workers moving away from the river and country folk from Dutch Farms moving into the bustling city. All of them were looking for prosperity in the era of recovery in a post-Civil War America. In the time where skyscrapers, machine guns, and cars were being imagined and forged, some city planner on the outskirts of a railroad-driven town decided to plant a few trees in a new housing development. Dwarf Maples and Ash trees dot the landscape through-out Philadelphia, however, for some unknown reason; they planted a golden, Chinese tree while laying the foundations of a new neighborhood. Over one hundred years later, this magnificent Ginkgo tree still stands, now taller than any building on the block.
I pass by this tree once a day and touch its bark. It is a constant reminder of the denim clad men laying brick, one-by-one, next to a yearling tree in a wooden box. It reminds me that while some humans build bombs and throw trash into the street, there are others who plant trees and build communities. It is a hope of mine that the Burner Culture, and all the communities it has fostered, will last beyond the next 100 years. And each of those years, the people will gather to build their dreams into the Nevada sky and soon render them to ashes.
We gather not for detachment, but to escape the disillusionment. Our advertisements, our presidential candidates, and our dishwashing soaps are all being projected at us from the same little window, all of them using the same terminology. But there is an older speech, a timeless droning, calling us out into wilderness and toward each other.
To be a Steward of the Earth is be conscious of the living things, great and small. We Leave No Trace on the playa, not just because the State of Nevada has established laws and fines for Littering, but because we understand what is truly growing in the desert and we come to evolve, not to stay the same.
Be a Steward of the Earth and not a conqueror. Foster the growing things but do not reap unconsciously.