ACE Climate Action Fellows Engage in Unique Opportunity at L.A. City Hall

The ACE LA Climate Action Fellows and their friends arrived to the picturesque LA City Hall on a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon. Our friends from City Plants and Tree People were there to train the students in all things tree distribution and care. But these young folks didn’t only receive in-depth training on how to empower their communities with urban canopy. They also had the privilege of engaging in meaningful dialogue with the LA Office of Sustainability, hearing first hand about the city’s new Sustainability Plan.

Before all of this incredible training, the ACE Fellows took the stage. The weekend prior to this event, they attended a retreat to reflect deeply on how their lives are connected to climate change and the impact that trees (or lack thereof) have had on them. They watched powerful films like The Story of Change, The Right to Breathe and Ron Finely’s TED Talk on Guerrilla Gardening. Digging deep and feeling inspired, they crafted incredible stories. I’ll share one here by Diego Zapata, a Senior at Bravo Medical Magnet High:

“Growing up in the streets of East LA, there were relatively no trees that I, a querulously curious child, could've embraced in its superior breadth. I was ignorant to the sensation of its coarse bark, of its infinitely infinitesimal, verdant leaves, or of the freshly-infused air of its breathe. The few times that I was in the presence of a tree, it was either in a second-hand storybook or in a rundown, ill-maintained park, where they were too young to bear my weight, or even to provide a morsel of precious shade. In this way, trees were more of a figment of some quixotic dream, one of ephemeral existence, only found in the worlds of the stories I adored or in the faraway lands of Beverly Hills or Bel Air. But in the most inchoate chapters of my life, the memory I am the most fond of as I recall these humble scenes, are the experiences I shared with my grandmother, in a quaint town in Mexico. She did not have any toys I could have spent my time with, or any stories that I could've read, bust she did have, in her possession, a single fig tree, growing robustly in all its glory. I embraced the security of its branches, the security I so craved for among the sketchy sidewalks in Lincoln Heights, I savored the sickly sweet fruits that hung limply amongst the animated leaves, fruits so sweet, that every other from my local grocer paled by comparison. I breathed the euphoric air that gave me the sensation of life for the first time in my juvenile young life. And along with that breathe of life, that seemingly insignificant tree, also bestowed upon me, a greater appreciation of what the natural had to offer me, and before I knew it, the fairytale trees of a once fabled world, sprouted amongst the cacophonous streets of East LA.”

After the Fellows shared their stories, they heard about the City’s Sustainability Plan. Susana Reyes, Senior Analyst for the Office of Sustainability said, “How are we going to address air quality? Especially in low-income communities? There are clusters of asthma throughout. It’s important to us that you in your community, you feel like you belong, and know how you can help. We want every Angeleno to feel empowered in their own community. Whether it’s planting trees or teaching your peers to take on projects, leading by example is key.” Susana invited the students to join the City’s next town hall meeting to make public comment on the Plan.

City Plants trained the students on how to host a tree adoption event in their communities. They are generously giving each student who hosts an event 100 fruit trees to give away. If everyone from the training successfully puts on an event, LA will have planted and cared for 1,600 more trees by the end of this school year.

Here’s why trees matter (thanks Tree People!):

- Dark-colored pavement and rooftops in sprawling cities like L.A. create “urban heat islands” that worsen global warming.
- Ninety percent of the school grounds in L.A. are covered by asphalt.
- L.A. has to import 85 percent of the water it uses – at a huge cost to consumers and the ecosystems that supply the water.
- L.A. has the worst air quality of any major city in the United States, posing a threat to the health of our residents.

ACE is so grateful to receive this support from our incredible partners, and can’t wait to help create a more thriving, resilient LA.

What’s your tree story?