Raven Arnold-Green has known that his future lay in environmental conservation and improvement since he was three years old. That’s when he first saw the video for Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.”
The 1995 song addresses over-development by humans and the need for environmental awareness. It juxtaposes “then and now” images from around the world: a lush forest versus a fire-charred wasteland; a green park where children once played versus a man in a city destroyed by war.
“I can still remember the impact that video had on me, the discomfort and pain I felt. I wanted to do something to help the environment, to help people,” says Raven, of East Mount Airy/Germantown. “We take more than we give, and it’s not a symbiotic relationship with the environment. It’s important to take care of the world that takes care of you.”
Raven has followed through with the vision from his childhood: He grew up playing in city parks – he says Awbury Arboretum was like “a second backyard” – and majored in Environmental Studies at Brandeis University. He’s interned at the arboretum. He’s preparing to take a job with TreePhilly, a program of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy.
And he also volunteers his time with Fairmount Park Conservancy, where he recently completed the six-week Volunteer Leader training.
“It’s easy to complain about a problem. It’s easy to know about a problem. But it’s harder to fix it,” Raven says. “The environment is one thing we have to fix before we address other issues. … it makes me feel better knowing I can make some type of contribution and impact.”
Addressing environmental issues can impact mental and physical health, provide jobs and prompt excitement in education. TreePhilly’s work, for example, in part addresses the lack of tree canopy in lower income neighborhoods. Because of that, these areas are hotter than others, which can cause physical and mental health problems.
But adding trees and caring for them can be a game changer, he notes. Volunteering in greening projects is one way people can take ownership of their lives and neighborhoods.
“We can use the environment as a proxy to fix other issues,” he says.
Raven knows that some people don’t visit parks, writing them off as boring. He knows some feel disengaged from the natural world.
He wants to change that. While living in Massachusetts, he would take people who felt detached from nature on “tree walks,” identifying the trees around them by name. He pointed out the differences in leaves and showed how they could use the “scratch and sniff” method to define some trees. These walks definitely had an impact, Raven says.
“It just brought to life a childlike wonder – ‘What’s this? What’s that?’ It was great seeing once reluctant people so excited about nature.”
Click here for ways to volunteer with Fairmount Park Conservancy.