Two Trees Grow in Brooklyn, Thanks to The Tenacity of BPL Librarians and Community Ecologists

December Podcast interviews by Virginia Marshall with Marlon Rice and Magnolia Tree Earth Center’s Nancy Wolf (not pictured) were part of the inspiration for an exhibit about Brooklyn’s grassroots green movement of which the two ecology education activists are prime leaders. Rice, current Executive Director of the Magnolia Earth Tree Center of Bedford Stuyvesant, (where Wolf serves as a five-decade Board Member) visited the exhibit on opening day, Tuesday, January 7, and met with BPL officials, from left: Michelle Montalbano, BPL Reference Librarian, Brooklyn Collection; Virginia R. Marshall, Podcasting Associate and Krissa Corbett Cavouras, Director of Marketing and Engagement at BPL. photo/Bernice Elizabeth Green
December Podcast interviews by Virginia Marshall with Marlon Rice and Magnolia Tree Earth Center’s Nancy Wolf (not pictured) were part of the inspiration for an exhibit about Brooklyn’s grassroots green movement of which the two ecology education activists are prime leaders. Rice, current Executive Director of the Magnolia Earth Tree Center of Bedford Stuyvesant, (where Wolf serves as a five-decade Board Member) visited the exhibit on opening day, Tuesday, January 7, and met with BPL officials, from left: Michelle Montalbano, BPL Reference Librarian, Brooklyn Collection; Virginia R. Marshall, Podcasting Associate and Krissa Corbett Cavouras, Director of Marketing and Engagement at BPL. photo/Bernice Elizabeth Green

The exhibit identifies four areas of Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook, Greenpoint and Prospect Park, as examples of the tenacity of Brooklynites in sustaining the borough’s natural landmarks. BPL is in discussions with Rice about a talk next month on the evolving green/environmental revolution since the days of Magnolia founder Hattie Carthan (1901-1984) and Silent Spring author/marine biologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964).
The Brooklyn Public Library Exhibition signage reads:
Plant life and green spaces throughout Brooklyn’s history have always represented pockets of resistance. The spaces themselves act against encroaching development, and as an invitation to stop, think and pay attention while the people behind them remind us of the power of community-oriented activism.
Organizations like the Magnolia Tree Earth Center in Bed-Stuy and Community Gardens have sprung up in formerly vacant lots around the city where grassroots movements banded together to revitalize their areas. World War II Victory Gardens were an effort to increase food production during a time of rationing. All of these represent homegrown advocacy rooted firmly in the earth.

There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky… It grows lushly… (It) survives …

 Excerpted from the 1946 novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
by Betty Smith


Brooklyn’s landscape comprises a vast network of ecologies: parks, forests within parks, gardens, streets, rivers and canals, and all the organisms that live within them, including its people. Geologists call this era the Anthropocene, which emphasizes the destructiveness of the human footprint on both the natural and built environments. This is evidenced by the ways in which industry, a huge part of life in Brooklyn through the middle of the 20th century, has ravaged our coastlines and canals.
But this is also a story of hope and resilience, much like Betty Smith’s iconic Brooklyn novel.
Other spaces in Brooklyn covered in the exhibit include Greenpoint and Red Hook.
Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the city, is about to be home to a new library that will be a model of sustainable development.
Red Hook hosts an annual Barnacle Parade to celebrate the community’s tenacity in the face of Hurricane Sandy.
The exhibit information also notes Brooklyn’s historical allegiance to green spaces also is evidenced by the very existence of the cherished green spaces built by the borough’s residents: our parks.

(Messages and editorials compiled by Bernice Elizabeth Green and Krissa Corbett Cavouras, Director of Marketing and Engagement at BPL)

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