San Diego’s Falling Tree Problem & You
If you ever visit San Diego, you’ll see lots of tall Eucalyptus trees. These trees aren’t just tall, they’re massive, reaching up to 180’ and weighing up to 100 tones (220,000 lbs). They have large broad branches atop their thick towering trunks. They are a pretty tree.
They are also very dangerous. Anytime a modest windstorm hits San Diego (not uncommon with Santa Ana winds), a number of these massive giants will topple, destroying what lies underneath them.
Here’s a picture from a recent article about these trees on just one college campus (only that one campus)
“This week a eucalyptus tree in a UCSD parking lot near Mesa housing fell and damaged four cars, one of which had just been purchased by a student. This isn’t the first time a tree has fallen on the UCSD campus and caused damage. In 2017, a UCSD eucalyptus tree fell on a Friday afternoon in January and smashed several cars. In the fall of 2013, a branch from a tree injured a pregnant woman and a man when it fell.”
These trees are not native to San Diego (and California as a whole). They were brought from Australia in the 1850’s and heavily encouraged by the government through the early 1900’s because they grew so fast and they needed wood.
Why The Trees Fall
While the trees grow fast, the root system is small. They grow tall but not deep. When they develop a big canopy 100’ high in the air, the weak roots make it easy for a strong wind to pull the tree out of the ground.
Trees That Don’t Fall
In contrast, if you visit a high mountain ridge at a ski resort, you’ll likely find two types of trees that don’t typically have this problem. Below is a picture from Sundance Ski Resort atop a ridge that sees gusts of 50-100 mph, has freezing temperatures, snow depths of up to 10 feet, and dry summers with temperatures up to 90 degrees. Yet, these trees survive and thrive, never falling to the storms. How?
The pine tree has both a broad-reaching root system and a deep tap root that can go up to 75’ deep. So its roots are extensive, both broad and deep.
The beautiful aspen trees pictured here take another approach – aspen trees actually have root systems that are grown together (a cluster of trees are in fact one living organism). Because the roots are all attached together and support each other, it is nearly impossible for wind or storm to take out any single tree. Interestingly, because they are one living organism, the aspen is considered the largest single living organism on the planet, the largest single living aspen cluster not far from Sundance.
Strong Roots are More Important Than Great Heights (the Metaphor)
If a tree grows high and wide but not deep and broad, it will fall. So we too must focus on growing deep and broad in character before we attempt to grow tall and wide in life.
Our values are like the roots of trees. If they are both broad and deep, and if we are true to them, no storm in life can “tip us over” and destroy us.
This is what it means to be true to character as we lead our lives.
When a person’s character is shallow and weak and they are not true to eternal values, they will in time fall. Consider the likes of Berne Madoff, Elizabeth Holmes, Lori Laughlin, OJ Simpson, Harvey Weinstein, and Jeffrey Epstein.
Certainly, we all make mistakes, some larger than others, but we should strive to develop a character so strong, deep, and broad, that quickly in life our mistakes are generally not mistakes of character.
Team Values and the Aspen Tree
Additionally, if like the Aspen, you can develop shared values with others that you reinforce with each other, you will find strength in your numbers and in your support for each other. These shared values may take the form of organizational, team, or family values.
How To Define Your Values (or Team Values)?
Below is a simple process to identify your values (individual or team values) and be true to them:
- Take out a piece of paper, write down the values that you want to define you
- On the same piece of paper, identify which value you do well at, circle it
- Now, find the value that you’d like to improve at, circle that as well
- Identify what specifically you can do to improve at that value this week
- Discuss being true to character with your team, family, or organization – discuss your organizational values and how as a team you can be true to those values
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