Growing up just outside New York City, Mark Buscaino's relationship with trees and the environment began exploring the nearby woods and river and his teenage landscaping and lawn mowing business. Following undergraduate studies in business administration, he found himself reconnecting with his love of nature and the environment in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Working first in animal husbandry in Benin, he saw an opportunity to start up the country's first forestry program. He trained volunteers, starting trees from seeds, and launched a national movement of village-operated nurseries. "It drove me nuts that aid organizations said farmers could not produce trees from seeds," says Buscaino. "They were farmers, they grew corn and all kinds of things from seeds. I couldn't understand why they just didn't take the nursery to the villages and that's what I did. Now if you go back to that area in Africa, you see plantations all over the place and all those plantations have been put down by the villagers themselves."
Buscaino's passion for connecting the community with trees continues in his work as Executive Director of Casey Trees, a nonprofit organization that restores, enhances, and protects the tree canopy of the nation's capital. The former National Director for the Urban and Community Forestry Program at the USDA Forest Service knows firsthand the importance of exposing young people to green career opportunities and stewardship. "Very few people get into this profession," says Buscaino. "Our Summer Urban Forestry Internship Program gives local community-sponsored high school opportunities they normally would not encounter until mid-way through a college career."
In Helsinki, he looks forward to seeing the city's interface with nonprofits, and the city's planning in terms of the green spaces, the environment, and the laws that support these efforts. "Europe is fascinating for any urban forester. They have done a lot more to plan their development in a cohesive fashion than we have in the United States. That fascinates me because it's almost as though they're a thousand years down the timeline, and we can learn so much. "
The Public Works Department of the City of Helsinki is responsible for the planning, construction and maintenance of streets and green areas in Helsinki as well as for parking control. The planning, construction and commissioning of city premises are also part of our duties. Our aim is to create a durable, beautiful and functional city to meet the needs of residents, companies and the capital.
Project manager Elina Nummi, Public Works department, Streets and
Parks Division will host Mr Buscaino's stay. Ms Nummi (in the picture in her Auntie Green outfit) is in charge of developing and coordinating voluntary work, environmental education, campaigns and sponsorship in park environments.
We will introduce Mr Mark Buscaino to ongoing work and research on trees in Helsinki, the extensive central park forest areas for recreation, offer him a glimpse of the education provided by our Nature School and show him our beloved nature reserve in the centre of Helsinki, (link: Viikki www.gardenia helsinki.fi/viikkinature/index.htm). Mr Buscaino will share his expertise in tree care with our arborists and gardeners during a half-day seminar.
Ms Nummi will visit Washington DC in May and participate in an educational event organised by Casey Trees as "Auntie Green". The City of Helsinki will donate a poster called "Our Friend the Tree" to the schools of DC.
I apologize for not writing sooner - technical difficulties have kept me from the site. To briefly summarize the past few days i've met with many incredible people, all very dedicated to ther work and judging from everyone's hospitality and kindness, to this exchange program as well.
The day i arrived (saturday) it was very foggy. Mikko picked me up and we did a brief tour of the city - and i was impressed with his knowledge of the city's history. In fact i've been impressed with everyone's knowledge of the history of the city and the country in general.
That evening Mikko, Susanna, Davey, Hilkka and Davey's guide Jari went to dinner at the Kosmos. I was told there were many celebrities there. I was told that finns don't stare at celebrities and since i diddn't know any except for Bradd Pitt and Angeline Jolie i didn't stare - just joking about Angelina and Bradd were in another country adopting another child so they couldn't make it to dinner that night...
Davey's guide Jari told me that there are 5 million people in finland and 3 million saunas. Now that's a statistic.
Hilkka was very kind to come and take me on a tour. We went to a nature preserve near her home (laajalahti) and she spoke to me about its history and how every year there are bird-watching competitions held here and around Finland. All i could think of was what a great way this is to get people engaged in understanding about nature. We also visited the Sibelius monument which was quite striking, and we had lunch on the waterfront at the Ursula Cafe. It was still quite foggy as it was on Saturday but it started to lift by the day's end.
I gave my presentation at the design studio near the hotel tormi where i'm staying.
Tonight was a special night. Elina hosted myself and Dale at her house with several friends who have been with both of us during our stays. We first started out in the sauna, and we had birch stems to drizzle water on us. I'm not so used to that type of prolonged heat but I must say that it felt pretty good - actually it felt better after we got out than it did while we were in there. And, the beer we had tasted really great when we got out!
After the sauna, which i'm told almost every finn has, we ate finnish sausages and meatballs and salad and black bread a lot of great food. Then, we ate... Mammi. That's right, Mammi. It looked like tar and tasted like brewer's yeast - with sugar it was pretty good, and the cream helped out too. The other special thing was that we drank some kind of tar liqueur. All this tar is having me ask some questions about the finnish diet, but it was a real of fun!
Spent most of the day with tina, the city's urban forester. I was impressed with the logging operations occurring near human settlements, schools. I was also impressed with the extent of the city's "central park" and all the uses it is able to provide.
In the evening we went to the finlandia hall to hear the symphony. It wasn't like your typical symphony concert - most of the songs were done for singing along, and most were finnish national songs - but of course there was Abba and some Queen tunes as well. Pretty wild those finns i gotta tell you!
We met up today with two urban forest researchers from helsinki university. They provided a presentation about how they were tracking tree growth and develoment in a new housing development near the university. The installations and measurements they were taking, and the information they had thus far gained, were quite intensive and very interesting. I was interested to see how closely their work paralleled other work going on in the US and hope i can create some connections that may be able to strengthen our mutually beneficial efforts.
The best part of the day however were the evening festivities, starting with the Deputy Mayor's reception, followed by a wonderful time at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Torni. The city from that vantagepoint was beautiful, and our hosts offered many an interpretation of the landscape and architecture to the north and to the south.
The city and its residents have been wonderful. I'll always treasure my time here, and sincerely hope we are able to develop some type of exchange program to continue learning from each other over the years.