Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Ode to the Tree People

Editor’s note: Bob was a force to be reckoned with. Whether they agreed with him or not, people read “Observations from the Edge.” In the many years he wrote for The Coast News Group, no person or issue elicited more Letters to the Editor than Bob Nanninga. His passion was admirable, his energy infectious. Here at the office, we will miss his unannounced visits, which were always a welcome and entertaining break in our workdays. We will also miss his voice, which was sometimes loud and at times dramatic, but it was always true. The following is Bob’s final column for The Coast News Group, written from his hospital bed days before his death.


Greetings from the ICU ward. It would seem I needed some critical “me” time after the 2008 Encinitas City Council race. Rundown and profoundly disappointed, I didn’t see the pneumonia coming until I was panting like a dog struggling to breathe on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Pneumonia is as gnarly as it gets. Everything works but the lungs. Lungs give breath. To breathe is to live. My mind is as active as ever. I want this to be done.

There is Earth Day to plan for, Encinitas Environment Day to organize. Poetry to publish and a novel to be finished. And I still have yet to see Prairie Dogs in the wild.

Lying in bed, news filters back about life and community in Encinitas. It is nice to know the tree people are getting creative. Thank you, Andrew, and all who gave him support during his week at the Orpheus front line.

Trees are the lungs of the planet. Without trees, lots of trees, soon everyone and everything will be gasping for air, victims of planetary pneumonia, so not good.

With that observation, allow me
to self-indulge with a poem written in honor of those who fight and plant trees.

Plant an oak, save the world.

Who are the people who speak for the trees

Giving them voice from root tip to leaves

I know they are out there

I’ve heard the tales

Of proud David Chain and Julia Butterfly Hill

A redwood named Luna

Watched her friends fall

Victims of the greed

Now killing us all

Victims of indifference

Trees continue to fall

As the climate changes

And biodiversity fades

Planet is diminished

As the trees fall away

Where are the warriors

Who will fight for the trees

Knowing full well without trees we’re not free

Humans are primates

We came from the trees

Before braving the grassland

And our now history

Thuggish and brutish

Forests were cleared

To make room for the primates

Who hold nothing dear

Happy to cut down

Trees, as long as they’re there

Well, I’ll speak for the tree people

And count them as friends

This warrior undaunted a message will send

In the green revolution

Allies stand tall and take to the trees

Spreading the call

Trees are our future

Trees built our past

Trees must become sacred

If mankind is to last

So all hail the tree people

Those that fight for the trees

Those that understand ethics

Beyond avarice and greed

A battle is coming

Pitting man against man

Man against nature

So do as you can

It’s time to take sides

Not just do as you please

Make no mistake

I stand with the trees.

An Ode to the Tree People by Bob Nanninga
Bob Tree Painting by Vanessa Lemen

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