From There to Here: Why the Environment Matters to One Tree-planting Volunteer

Imagine having an ‘ah ha’ moment about the world and how we live in it several thousand feet above ground over Afghanistan. That’s what happened to Brad Machado.

Brad – while deployed in Afghanistan as a flight paramedic – realized this while staring down at the earth below from his perch above: there was nothing. Particularly striking to him about the vast landscape below was how empty it was in the absence of any sort of resource management. For example, he observed that a total lack of flood mitigation resulted in washing out farms in the rainy season, leaving a barren landscape below and the people who lived there struggling with a general lack of resources.

Fast forward to Brad’s return home to Modesto (where he was born and raised) in the middle of one of the worst droughts California has ever seen – it felt like a strange parallel. It gave Brad what he describes as a “front row seat in how we manage our own resources and how our environment is affected by our actions.”

He reflects on how, growing up in the Central Valley,  when his family would leave the city for the mountains or the coast, he didn’t ever really notice the resource management side of the equation. He appreciated the beauty of being in nature but not the reality of what it takes to manage these places as natural resources well. He says since coming home from Afghanistan he’s “really learning to pay attention.” Specifically, Brad notes, “One of California’s biggest problems with water is that so often the water we use is from hundreds of miles away – it’s not as tangible.”

Making this connection between resource management and the health of the environment drove Brad to pursue a resource management at Modesto Community College where he is

currently the Executive VP of the student body and actively involved in the Veteran’s Club. He will be transferring to UC Davis to complete his studies this fall before continuing on to grad school.

Tuolumne River Trust (TRT) lucked out in having Brad and his fellow campus Veteran’s Club members join an Operation 9-2-99 river clean up as volunteers. From there, he organized a group to come out and participate in our Rim Fire tree planting season and had a blast. He said that people really took ownership of planting their little seedlings and that before the end of the day, several volunteers were referring to “my tree” that they’d planted. He reflected that it was neat to see people so engaged in being a small but very real part of the Rim Fire recovery effort.

In response to the question about what he’d most like to change about the world, Brad thoughtfully responds, “Improving connections with our environment and getting people out into it.  If you spend time in nature, then you see the impact we’re having – that’ll ring more true than any policy change. When people realize it’s important, they’ll protect it.”

…Truly, Brad, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

– Interview with Dulcey Reiter