Love it or Leaf it: Partners in Community Forestry Conference 2021

By Dr. Christine Carmichael 

In this very special Love it or Leaf it episode, my colleague Sarah Lillie Sewell and I recorded IN-PERSON for the first time at the annual Partners in Community Forestry Conference which took place in Louisville, Kentucky this year 🎉😀.  

Hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation, this conference brings together hundreds of professionals who plant and care for trees in communities across the U.S. to share experiences and learn from one another. Time to see how socially awkward we are after nearly two years in isolation! At least we don’t have to worry about talking while muted, like on Zoom.  

Lillie and I met at the 2017 Partners in Community Forestry conference—fate intervened and I found my professional soul mate! We were both trying to push the field to be more accountable to and inclusive of the communities historically excluded from decision-making processes around urban trees—particularly Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and lower income communities and people.  

This year’s conference focused on ways to make urban forestry more accessible, inclusive, and fair for all communities. Lillie and I talked about how we both started attending this conference as young professionals, and what has kept us coming back. As Lillie said, “Everyone here is so mission-driven,” and focused on how to improve people’s relationships with trees. Really importantly, this conference has provided us both with a space to feel free and be limitless. So much so that Lillie won the Trailblazer Award! 

We talked about what it means to be inclusive, and how important it is to give control back to communities. As Majora Carter, keynote speaker for the conference, said, “Community is not just a place, it’s an activity.” Being inclusive starts with reflecting more on how we can invite more diverse people to CHANGE the culture, rather than fit in with the existing culture of domination, including racism, sexism, class exploitation, and imperialism.  

Lillie also shared insight from Joel Pannell at American Forests about how we need to shift away from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. Listen in to hear more about what that means! 

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