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ScissorTales: Our landscape gets a welcome boost

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: September 1, 2012

FOR a quarter of a century, Mary Gilmore Caffrey has made the Tree Bank Foundation her branch office. Pun intended.

Caffrey has announced her retirement as the foundation's executive director, effective Sept. 30. She's overseen the planting of more than 200,000 trees on public grounds in Oklahoma and the distribution of more than 108,000 seedlings for others to plant.

Concurrent with her retirement, the Tree Bank Foundation is celebrating 25 years of adding trees to the landscape, trees valued collectively (at maturation) at nearly $250 million.

The foundation was started in 1987 and seeded by volunteers dedicated to planting and distributing trees. It joined with Oklahoma Forestry Services for the Centennial Witness Trees program that was part of Oklahoma's 100th birthday celebration in 2007. More recent projects include the planting of native tree species at Oklahoma City University and a reforestation project in Atoka County following the April 2011 tornado outbreak there.

Chances are you saw a Tree Bank tree growing somewhere along your route to work or school this week. Recipients of Tree Bank plants don't just get the trees. They also get instructions on how to care for them.

Trees are not only nice to look at. They provide shade and reduce air pollution. So we congratulate Caffrey and an organization with a lot of bark that's taken a big bite out of a tree-challenged landscape.

Smoking dopes?

The term “pothead” has long been used to describe someone as being less-than-bright. Now that characterization is backed by scientific data. New research concludes teenagers who routinely smoke marijuana experience a long-term drop in IQ. The study tested the IQ of more than 1,000 13-year olds in New Zealand, then conducted five follow-up interviews through the years, and concluded with another IQ test when the individuals turned 38. The study recorded mental decline only for participants who regularly smoked marijuana before age 18. Many teenagers will turn down a cigarette because of its association with health problems, but see marijuana as harmless. For a government survey, roughly 23 percent of American high school students reported smoking marijuana, compared with just 18 percent who smoked cigarettes. It appears that if they smoke enough marijuana, they may lose the ability to mentally make that distinction.

Give thanks to whom?

The culture wars took a strange turn this week in Tulsa when it was announced that an atheist would give the opening prayer at the Tulsa City Council meeting. Dan Nerren, founder of the Humanist Association of Tulsa, said he's likely the first to offer a secular invocation at the meeting, which typically begins with a prayer offered by a local religious leader. Nerren said his prayer wouldn't invoke any deity, but would invoke ... the council. That may be small comfort to Tulsans who are all too familiar with the history of division and ineffectiveness on the council in past years. It's one thing for a person to declare himself an atheist, and something else entirely to put one's faith in the ability of fallible politicians who constantly prove their fallibility. History suggests that's a true leap of faith.

Far-fetched fuel standards

Who needs more drilling here in America to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Not the Obama administration, which this week finalized rules requiring that average gas mileage for new cars and trucks nearly double — to 54.5 miles per gallon — by 2025. The administration says the changes will leave us less reliant on foreign energy, save motorists money at the fuel pump and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney correctly points out that meeting the new standards will require more-expensive vehicles that will cancel out the savings consumers realize from filling up less frequently. The gas mileage rules will be phased in gradually and will be reviewed in 2018. Perhaps by then we'll be well on our way, under different leadership in the White House, to reaching oil independence through smart drilling and exploration programs instead of gimmicks.

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