Square Trees Grow in New Hampshire


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Amy Quinton's Square Tree Story

Wonderfully clever! I had a hard time hearing the entire story because I was laughing so loud. Keep up the excellent work.

Square Trees

Square Trees- A Metaphor

It was an unusual Tuesday for me because it was both April fool’s day and MCAS testing. I sat on the obligatory whoopee cushion and got anointed with disappearing ink and finally I told my students that MCAS testing for today would be cancelled. Then, because I really don’t like to drag out the kind of jokes that inherently make people feel strange I gingerly, after a few staccato snaps that spark the rolling up of a the Hammond World Map, disclosed the words April Fool’s in yellow chalk, emblazoned on the blackboard.

It was a good day, and since I had an appointment after school, I missed most of ATC. After my appointment, I turned on NHPR and it seemed that I had missed the introduction to a piece on square trees. I first must tell you that I am a fourth grade teacher and I use the archive programs from NPR to augment my curriculum.
As I listened, I thought that it would be a great archived piece to use the next day. Before I played it, I planned to have my students brainstorm all of the cause and effect relationships that would result if trees were, in fact, square then I would play it and they would listen and we could discuss the pros and cons.

The next day when I went to call up the program from the day before, I had some difficulty so I called NHPR. I dialed the number and the phone began to ring. Now, before I pick up the phone, I want to remind you that this story took place on April Fool’s day.
The woman’s voice said, NHPR, How can I help you?

Before I got 10 words into the conversation asking how to find the Square Tree Story on the archives, she interrupted and said, “You fell for the April Fool’s spoof.

Well, I don’t think that is necessary for me to elaborate on how I felt. The woman said hold on and I will get Amy Quintin, the person who wrote the article.
Amy and I talked about the whole spoof and she explained how the Forest Society had been working on the spoof all year. I felt like I had just been sitting at the radio listening to HG Wells’s War of the Worlds spoof and had reacted to it like many thousands of people did many years ago back in 1953. I suppose that you could say that I got “War of the Worlded!” I believed it all!

During the day following my experience after I worked through my feelings of stupidity and gullibility, I began to think why a reasonably intelligent person would believe something like this?

It hit me! When I hear reputable people speak, I as most people tend to do, believed it and also with the way that our world is being controlled by people who put the dollar before ethics, this just seemed to be the next ridiculous event that I usually respond to by saying, “Why not, everything else is so screwed up why not this?”

Amy’s piece had all of the components for an authentic, curriculum based, Socratic discussion for my classroom. It said that square trees would allow 18% more trees to be grown in the forest and that 25% more logs could fit into the truck, and at a time of such high fuel prices, that would be a money saver: It fits, we are studying percentages:

We have been discussing supply and demand in our classroom so when Charlie Niebling, General Manager for New England Wood Pellets in Jaffrey said that the square tree could put him out of business and that his company depends on wood waste to make pellets for stoves I thought that it would certainly provide the potential for a relevant conversation on supply and demand. We would be meeting all of the frameworks.

He said that since a square tree reduces wood waste, higher demand will drive up his costs, and that they are very concerned about it, he said that they are probably going to have to go much further out to find sufficient wood resources to manufacturer their pellets and with the price of diesel fuel going through the roof that means their costs are going to increase significantly.

I was waiting, as all good NPR listeners do, to hear about the effect on the environment, well, sure enough she said that another major concern about the square tree is the effect it might have on the environment.
The Forest Society insists that their square trees are more environmentally friendly -- taking up more carbon, which helps mitigate climate change. Our curriculum addresses climate change.
But New Hampshire Sierra Club Chapter Director Catherine Corkery said that she isn’t buying it, she was concerned that the interaction between square trees and wildlife could be really dangerous, She said that it would be difficult for bears to climb trees because it’s not as easy if they’re square
The forest society’s Jack Savage insisted they’re not blind to the impact on what he calls highly arboreal species.
He said squirrels in particular spiral up a tree, and they’re not sure that they’ll be able to go around the tree with the same speed on a square tree, which means they may be more susceptible to predators.

This would lead my students to discuss the cause and effect relationship of wildlife and adaptation, wow! Would I have a great lesson?

Climate change, percentages, supply and demand, debating our future, cost of energy and how far we would go to counteract it all. Thank you NPR!

I think that I figured out why I was prone to believing it all. So much blatant disregard for our environment coupled with our administration’s allowing us to get in a position of unregulated financial chaos thus allowing hundreds of thousands of people to lose their homes made me, once again, say, “Why not have square trees?”

This piece had much more to it than an April Fool’s Day spoof. OK NHPR, now look behind the April Fools story and look at all of what is happening to our world. Go to the next step!
Let this funny and provocative piece serve as a stepping stone to directing our media to be the voice we need to uncover the villains who are no longer accountable for their actions and who really don’t care about our children’s futures

Fred Goldberg is a fourth grade teacher in Townsend Mass and is a founding member of The Loft Foundation.