'Edelweiss' Innuendo; Take a Hike; Planting an Idea

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Good morning, it’s Monday, April 22, 2019, a big day in U.S. history for those who care about the environment -- most specifically about the living entity that covers up so many of mankind’s ecological sins. I’m talking, of course, about trees.

Setting aside one day a year to venerate trees of all kinds -- and, ideally, to plant them -- seems the least we can do, given all the good they do. The idea itself was the brainchild of J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. Although nobody was talking at that time about carbon footprints or global climate patterns, Americans certainly knew what deforestation looked like and Morton’s crusade found a willing audience.

He’d launched the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872 while serving on Nebraska’s Board of Agriculture. Initially, Morton simply called it “Tree Planting Day,” and it proved so popular in the Cornhusker State that by the time he went to Washington to serve in Cleveland’s Cabinet, Nebraska had changed the date to April 22 -- today’s date -- in honor of Morton’s birthday.

I’ll have more on this topic, along with a couple of my favorite quotes about trees, in a moment. First, I'd point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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“Edelweiss” and the Media. Steve Cortes assails the innuendo instigated by a New York Times reporter involving the Rodgers and Hammerstein song and the White House.

Recovering the Christian Foundations of Human Rights. Peter Berkowitz weighs in on a new book by Robert Louis Wilken, “Liberty in the Things of God.”

Spending-Cap Fights Expose Both Parties’ Weaknesses. In RealClearPolicy, James C. Capretta warns that the bipartisan consensus to ignore the nation’s budgetary challenges probably won’t change until outside events force a different response

Electric Car Subsidies Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be. In RealClearEnergy, Steve Pociask explains why Congress should oppose EV credits.

A Misplaced Emphasis on Government Data. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny reminds readers that private entities often produce more accurate, and timely, economic statistics than their federal counterparts, at no cost to taxpayers.

Rethink Ending Rebates on Prescription Drugs. In RealClearHealth, Brian McNicoll writes that a proposed rule halting rebates drug companies pay to Part D and Medicaid-managed organizations could backfire and increase the cost of medicines.

10 Favorite National Park Hikes. In honor of National Park Week, RealClearLife has this guided tour.

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Born in New York in 1832 and raised near Detroit, Julius Sterling Morton graduated from the University of Michigan, married and headed west, stopping in a place called Nebraska City. There, he made his home and his name -- putting his stamp on Nebraska and, eventually, the rest of the nation.

He edited a local newspaper, served in the territorial legislature as a Democrat, and was appointed by President James Buchanan as Nebraska's governor from 1858 until 1859. He identified his own politics as "conservative" at a time when the word had a different connotation than it does today, at least insofar as environmental policy is concerned.

As I have noted in this space previously when writing about Arbor Day, “conservative” is a cognate of “conservation,” and Morton was decidedly conservationist in his outlook. His particular passion was reforestation, which he helped implement as federal policy while serving in the Cleveland administration.

By 1907, Arbor Day was celebrated in every state in the Union, but not necessarily on April 22.

Nebraska, like most states, now observes it on the last Friday in April. Tree-planting is an activity with local geographic and climate considerations, however, so this is not uniform.

California (state tree, the redwood) observes Arbor Day from March 7-14. In Texas (pecan), it's the first Friday in November. Florida (sabal palm) goes on the third Friday in January.

At the Arbor Day Foundation website, you can click on your state to see when you should be out planting. For inspiration, you can contemplate the heart-warming words of Henry David Thoreau: “I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”

Or you can read Joyce Kilmer’s lovely, 12-line ode to trees, the one that ends:

“Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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