To promote social change through interaction with trees and the urban forest
The urban forest, seen through the eyes of a social forester, is a rich landscape where the human spirit can grow and a new understanding of the delicate balance of nature can flourish. The urban forest has been used to help people see beyond the boundaries of poverty, inner city crime and unemployment to find they are part of a larger world with far more possibilities than they ever imagined. Programs in California have provided job training for at risk youth and immigrants and provided havens for the mentally ill such as schizophrenics who find solace working with nature in horticulture programs.
Rudi Redamosa, a landscape architect, now manages Green Link in Southern California where he helps build relationships between urban neighborhoods and the urban forest through youth training that employs kids at risk. The program grew out of the turmoil of the Los Angeles riots and led to training 12 inner city youth in tree maintenance. All of the youth found permanent employment after their training, and the initial success led to expanded programs and services.
"I find it gratifying and satisfying to see that we are putting people to work, meaningful work helping the environment and making good money," Redamosa said.
In addition to job opportunities, social forestry programs promote an appreciation for the delicate balance of urban environments.
One successful Green Link program trained 100 immigrants in environmentally responsible gardening that uses methods such as water wise landscaping and composting. Along with their garden training, those in the program also learned small business skills and most went on to find employment or start their own businesses, some earning as much as $100,000 a year.
Those working in social forestry come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience from landscape architects to social workers and city park managers to high school teachers. Most are driven by a vision of a better future fueled by the belief that the seeds of personal growth and healing can be found in an appreciation and understanding of trees and forests.
The field of social forestry offers a wide spectrum of positions from clerical and administrative to management and education or training positions.
Opportunities within social forestry are increasing, and like many other careers in the nonprofit sector, those getting started in the field may find that volunteering can lead to job opportunities.
Requires: 4 year degree or equivalent.