Gross Domestic Happiness Overrules All in Bhutan
Redwood Trees in Willow Creek Pay Tribute
By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune
In the 1970s, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan decided it was less concerned with how much money it had and more concerned with the happiness of its citizens.
In a time when a nation’s health is measured by its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Bhutan stepped outside of the box and decided to gauge its success by its Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH). In 2007, with one foot still outside of the box, they also decided to convert their absolute monarchy into a democracy holding practice elections and finally a real election with a real partisan National Assembly.
In the spirit of democracy and to honor Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck—the King that gave up the throne to improve his country’s Gross Domestic Happiness—Willow Creek resident Patrick Shannon planted a redwood grove 300 trees strong at the ‘Top of the World’—an area located on his private property where the Trinity Alps are visible on a clear day. Also visible are the headwaters of Horse Linto Creek and Ironside Mountain.
“This place reminds me of Bhutan. They are surrounded by white-capped 20,000 foot high mountains in the Himalayas,” Shannon said. “Of course our mountains are not that high, but there are a lot of similarities.”
A visitor to Bhutan, Shannon is helping build a library there for residents who didn’t previously have access to books. His daughter, Summer, has shipped about 1,200 books to the library in the small village of Gasa in the high mountains—elevation 9,350 ft.
Shannon and his daughter plan to return to Gasa this coming March to continue work on the library in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Real Global. They also seek to secure funding to rebuild a nunnery and temple there that was destroyed by an earthquake last month.
As for the trees on The Top of the World in Willow Creek, there are 300 of them and they’re all three years old—the same age as the democracy. One hundred trees for each year their democracy was in place. The freshly planted grove stretches over several acres. The trees are randomly spaced in no-row fashion to mimic how they would have naturally grown.
The Forest of Democracy borders the Forest of Defiance—another grove planted by high school boys in 2006 when they were suspended from school—and the Lee McCardy Memorial Forest. Shannon has headed up the planting of thousands of trees in an effort to build a defensible fire line all the way from Friday Ridge Road to Highway 299.
Redwoods naturally resist fire. The fibrous bark of the redwood tree keeps a hot fire at bay. Shannon said redwoods can cool fires and even slow them to a stop.
Although the Northern California coastline is internationally famous for its majestic redwood forests, inland areas are sparsely populated by the giants.
Scientists say the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, wiped out most inland redwoods. Now the trees are dependent on moist conditions provided by the coastal region, making the drier inland climates less hospitable. But that didn’t stop Shannon from planting thousands of them on his property, many of which have reached heights of over 20 feet in a decade.
All of the trees Shannon plants on his property were grown and purchased locally from the Hoopa Tribe’s Tsemeta Forest Nursery.
A philanthropist of sorts, Shannon also solicits the help of local folks who might be unemployed or who may need a little extra work to keep them busy and out of trouble. He also hopes the local tribes will be willing to send a couple their builders to Bhutan in March to help with construction of the library, nunnery, and temple.
Chad Blanchet of Willow Creek had never seen a Hoedad before he stepped up to help plant the Forest of Democracy. The odd-shaped tree-planting tool resembles a pick but has a one-foot long straight head designed to puncture the earth just enough to sink tree roots. It makes tree planting a breeze, relatively speaking.
Shannon uses one more unusual tool on his property to bring back a species that historically populated the region—an elk horn.
“I walk around and blow the elk horn,” Shannon said.
“When I look at the effects of poor forest management, I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he said. “I feel responsible to help.”