Thursday, September 11, 2014

Redwoods

Have you ever done Toastmasters before?  Toastmasters is an international speaking organization.  I recently joined an affiliated chapter and had to give a speech.  For my speech, I chose to speak about the Redwood trees.  Well, I thought that I would post the text of my speech here.  Hopefully you find it informative and enjoyable.

Redwoods 

Good morning!  The National Geographic biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle once said, “Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss.  If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you’ll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment.  A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber.  I see a living city.”  It is the importance of these ancient cities I would like to speak of today.

Now - Stand up.  Come on, I want all of you to stand up.  Take a look around the room for a moment and imagine if every single one of you stood on the shoulders of one another.  How tall do you think you would be?  60 feet tall?  Maybe 75 feet?  Even if all of you stood on your tippy toes, you wouldn’t be tall enough to reach the height of the mighty redwood tree. 

Next, I’d like you to go ahead and put your arms up and stretch out.  You feel that burst of oxygen that is filling your lungs.  There’s a good chance that oxygen came from a tree, and a tree the size of a redwood can produce enough oxygen to support the breathing habits of 11 families of four each year. 

One last thing I would like you to do, turn to the person to your right.  Shake their hand.  Turn to the person to your left.  Shake their hand.  Do you feel a spiritual connection?  For centuries, people have felt a spiritual connection to these towering giants as they journeyed through forests. 

Okay, please feel free to take a seat as I tell you more about the last few centuries with the Redwoods.

What is the Redwood tree?

The Redwood is a hardwood tree that has been around for over 100 million years.  In that time, it has changed very little.  There are actually three different kinds of Redwoods.  The Coast Redwood is located along the western edge of California, and the Giant Sequoia is located in the central, eastern side of California.  There is also a shorter cousin, the Dawn Redwood, which is located in China.  The tallest of the Coast Redwoods hides in a difficult to access area of the Redwood National Park known as The Grove of Titans.

As mentioned earlier, these are very tall trees; actually the tallest in the world.  To demonstrate how tall these trees can get, the tallest tree in the world is called Hyperion, a Coast Redwood,which stands at 379 feet tall.  That is higher than the top of the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol Building.

These trees are among the longest lived organisms on the planet at over 2,000 years old.  Something interesting that was recently discovered was the source of this durability.  Scientists have found that the Redwoods have a unique genome structure that has 6 different sets of chromosomes, which have allowed to it adapt and overcome diseases that have destroyed other trees with fewer chromosome pairs.

Speaking of Scientists, did you know that scientists have found that the redwood is one of the fastest growing trees in the world.  Redwood clones are being grown in every continent except Antarctica. 

Who cares about the Redwood trees?

Scientists are one of the many groups that care for the Redwoods.  There are so many unique properties held within the genetic code of the Redwood, that scientists want to protect that biodiversity.  Ecologists care for the Redwood tree, understanding how it acts as a canopy protecting the animals and plants from excessive sunlight.  The branches, holes, nooks and crannies create homes to protect species during long winters.  Park Rangers and recreationists protect these trees to ensure that the peaceful relaxing environment lasts throughout the ages.  Even responsible lumber companies are getting into the act, cultivating populations of new Redwoods to replace those that were cut down in the past.

You can care for the Redwoods too.

Learn as much as you can.  Visit our national parks.  Rising up over every living organism on the planet is a species that can fill you with awe.  Let people know how being in the shadow of these giants makes you feel.  The Redwoods are trees of epic proportions, standing taller than national monuments and living longer than the Roman Empire.  Everyday people like you and me can tell the story.  These trees have the ability to teach us about ourselves. 


So, stand up.  Stand tall.  Stand strong.  Stand with the Redwoods.




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