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Who’s Afraid Of The Big Good Wolf?


I’ve got wolf food on my mind. Perhaps you know the parable that fuels this thought? It’s the one where an elder is teaching a youngster about how we all have two wolves inside of us that are always fighting each other. 

In the story, the wise one teaches his listener about one wolf inside of us that is good, representing the kindness, bravery and love we all have within ourselves, while the other is a bad wolf, representing the greed, hatred and fear inside us all.

The youngster is intrigued and asks: “Which one wins?” to which the elder replies: “The one you feed.” 

It seems we hear a lot from the bad wolves, and so they keep hogging all the food. But I’m always on the hunt for good wolves and things that might nourish them. And it turns out this type of nourishment is there in abundance. For instance …

A Walk Among London’s Street Trees

The noise and chaos of city streets can sometimes feel as though a Bad Wolf Buffet lurks around any given corner. And yet, a few weeks ago while in London on a trip with my mother, we had the pleasure of joining author Paul Wood on a walking tour with a dozen others who were curious to learn more about the trees lining London’s streets. Even though it had been a long, hot workday for most, our leader’s enthusiasm had us gamboling from tree to tree like playful wolf pups. We learned about everything from varieties of peaches to the politics behind London’s tree planting, topics he also explores with engaging and encyclopedic delight in his blog and his recently published, beautiful little handbook, London Street Trees (Safe Haven, 2017).

If you can’t join him for a walk any time soon, consider following @thestreettree on Instagram where, for example, you can learn about a tree perched between randomly parked cars in London that resulted from a Soviet-era horticulturalist’s experiment in crossing trees from two North American genera, yielding the unpronounceable hybrid (x Chitalpa tashkentensis). The good wolf in me simply pronounces this fine specimen: “Ah-wooo!” 

Trees Coming Up Down Under

Although the seasons are reversed in Australia compared to the Northern Hemisphere, some Australians nonetheless have the right conditions for planting trees at this time of year. Planet Ark, a not-for-profit that envisions a world where people live in balance with nature [Good Wolf swivels ears towards Australia], recently celebrated “Australian Tree Day” and a scan of the twitter hashstag #nationaltreeday yields an abundance of smiling children, newly planted trees, birds and other wildlife benefiting from this day of observance. 

Beyond fun-looking local field trips, Planet Ark also offers really useful resources of global relevance. For example, the report, Learning From Trees: Life Lessons For Future Generations, is chock full of data and ideas about how to leverage the health benefits—in particular the mental health benefits—of time spent outside. At a time when there are practically daily headlines about a mental health crisis for our youth, the good wolves, it seems to me, could use a healthy snack. Tuck this one in their lunch boxes.

Wait! Don't Leave the Southern Hemisphere Just Yet

Those voracious bad wolves dine out on dire stories from so-called “developing economies” such as Brazil—with all kinds of sound bites about political drama and deforestation to rationalize their gluttony. If only the good wolves were given a turn, they would have plenty to savour, including what landscape architect and botanist Ricardo Cardim is cooking up.

He is like the Elvis of urban reforestation, attracting leagues of enthusiastic supporters, many of them young and keen to contribute to a better future. Together they are restoring the city of São Paulo’s Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) with an approach Cardim has coined,  florestas de bolso or “pocket forests,” that are slowly but surely repopulating native tree species in the city’s nooks and crannies. You don’t need to read Portuguese to understand the before-and-after photos included on his site, but what you might miss in the captions is that the incredible visible transformation takes place in as little as just two years! There are dozens of projects, some already completed and many more in the works (including one I got to plant a tree in, pictured below, in 2016). Good wolves’ bellies overflow with this bounty in the streets of São Paulo where these mini forests steadily take root.

Some Good Food Is Tough To Swallow

I don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna about our species’ future (including that of our inner wolves). There are definitely some very real problems that need attention. I believe we have a lot of work to do to ensure a healthy planet fit for a thriving society into the future (including for our outer wolves). Some of it will be quite challenging in ways we can scarcely imagine.

But even—perhaps especially—as we explore the most daunting issues we face, we must be careful which wolf we feed, as this is a dichotomy that resides within our own hearts and minds. Recognizing where we might be inadvertently contributing to the wrong side of the pack is a tough challenge. Yet such is the power of these minds of ours in driving actions that matter—an idea I explore in a recent article, A Mind Is A Beautiful Thing To Changethat perhaps the most abundant source of good wolf food sits right between our own fuzzy little ears. 

This gives the saying, “to feed someone to the wolves” a whole new ring, doesn’t it? 

I welcome your thoughts on whatever it is that makes your good wolves howl. 

Yours in connectedness, Lorraine

PS This piece first appeared as an emailed newsletter in August 2017. To sign up to receive my newsletters, click here.

PPS The photo of the wolf, above, is made free to the Creative Commons by skeez on The photo of the pocket forest, below, is by me. Ah-wooo! 

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