Jennie Peterson

Honoring the Comose Fig Tree

— Thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Comose Fig. First I want to acknowledge and express my deep appreciation to Adam Williams and Pat Matsueda for their heroic efforts to save the tree. Even though the tree was cut down, your actions do make a difference. Many who witnessed your heartfelt commitment to act will be moved to reflect on what happened.

— I was asked to say a few words about why preserving trees is important. Particularly in this time of climate change—real and is occurring now—trees are some of the most important ways to limit the effects of global warming. They absorb and store carbon dioxide, filter toxins and purify the air, provide shade, reducing temperatures. They promote water and soil retention, decreasing storm water run-off. They convert solar energy into food that fuels the food chain, release oxygen and provide habitat for birds and other creatures.

— All trees are important to life on Earth. We cannot live without them and yet we cannot save them all. However, it’s still crucial to work to protect trees, especially intact native forests that provide enhanced ecological services and hold secrets not yet revealed.
Urban trees must be saved to temper the effects of over-development, and we must save those special heritage trees with unique qualities.

— If any tree should have been spared, it’s the Comose Fig tree. Its sheer size makes its environmental benefits more important. Planting several small trees will not make up for this tree’s “gifts” for a long time. An American forester said, “Trees outstrip most people in the extent and depth of their work for the public good.” This one certainly did!

— It also has a rich historical legacy—planted by Joseph Rock, the first Territorial Botanist in Hawaii, and U.H.’s first botanist. He was also an internationally known plant explorer. The Fig was part of the Heritage Collection of trees that Rock planted on campus nearly 100 years ago.

— Uniqueness: This variety of fig is the only one on Campus and one of few in the State.

— Aesthetics: Located just outside the Art Dept., it’s ironic that this truly great work of art, an inspiration and vision of beauty was cut down.

— Enhancement: Apparently the rec center had to go in this location to “enhance student experience.” I cannot imagine how a rec center can compare to this irreplaceable treasure with its ability to enhance life in a deeper way—with solace, beauty, calm, joy. Its qualities are gifts not only for us today, but for our children and our children’s children. Now cut, it cannot be replaced. Not in our lifetime or our children’s will we experience a nearly 100-year-old Comose Fig.

— Spiritually: Joseph Campbell said, “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying ‘Ah!’” This pathway to the infinite has been cut off.

— Let us be inspired by the blessings of this particular tree to work to protect others, so that the enduring legacy of the Comose Fig lives on.


One thought on “Jennie Peterson

  1. Mahalo, Pat, and Jennie, and all who care for trees, as well as all sentient beings sharing our great web of life . . .


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