Nalini Nadkarni Speaks for the Trees

| Fri Mar. 6, 2009 7:29 PM EST
It's not like people aren't way into trees; some embrace them, others even live in them. But arguably, neither the huggers nor the Dumpster Muffins of the world do as much for the trees as Evergreen State College ecologist Nalini Nadkarni, who has made a career of defending them. On today's TEDTalk, Nadkarni tells you stuff you probably didn't know about the tree canopy (there's a whole ecosystem up there) and explains why it deserves our attention. The president of the International Canopy Network, a nonprofit she founded in 1994, she's enlisted dancers, rappers, prisoners, and churchgoers to help her spread the tree gospel. Here's a sampling of her projects (H/T TED):

  • ICAN
    Nalini is president of the International Canopy Network, a non-profit built in 1994 to support interaction between all people with a vested interest in the state of the canopy. Clearly, scientists aren't alone in the desire to preserve our environment and this project connects them with educators, activists and more.
  • Biome
    After spending time exploring the treetops at Nalini's invitation in Costa Rica, choreographers for the innovative modern dance group Capacitor created a live show and video performance about their experience. Nalini was credited as Scientific Advisor.
  • Treetop Barbie
    Showing little girls that they can be scientists and canopy researchers too, Nalini and her graduate students collect secondhand Barbie dolls and outfit them for a day in the field before distributing them to eager young minds.

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  • The Moss Project
    At the Cedar Creek Corrections Facility in Little Rock, Washington, Nalini has employed a team of prisoners turned botanists to grow mosses that would otherwise be harvested from the wild for the horticultural trade. The project has also been great for the inmates, teaching them skills that can earn money after their release.
  • Canopy Walkway
    At the Evergreen State College, Nalini has been exploring the possibility of building a system of canopy-level forest walkways, giving students and the public the opportunity to see the ecosystem at work. There's also hope that it will initiate and inspire fresh ideas about conservation.
  • Trees and Spirituality
    Nalini sees the spiritual value of trees as well as their practical value, and in this program she visits local churches and synagogues to speak about the relationship between trees and faith.
  • Canopy Rap
    Critics have been calling for hip-hop with a positive message for some time, and now courtesy of Nalini and rapper Duke Brady, we can all enjoy the freestyle rap "Kindle your own fire." Click to listen.
  • Canopy Camoflauge
    This project aims to produce clothes that remind us of the beauty of the natural world, and Nalini worked with designers to produce prototypes that depict mosses and trees. They hope to market the concept to outdoor-oriented retailers, exposing us all to images that remind us of the fragile ecosystems we stand to lose.