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Professor practices what he preaches.

"I used to do esoteric research on chemical lasers," says Jack Parker, chemistry professor at Florida International University, a state school in Miami. But no more. Now Dr. Parker spends much of his time out of the lab-rallying students to plant trees and save rainforests.

No ivory-tower theorist, this 49-year-old native Floridian says, "Students should not just talk about problems like global warming in the classroom. They should get involved. "

Parker's own involvement dates back to the 1970s when he became active with several environmental groups in Miami's Dade County. He served on the boards and helped write energy legislation.

While working on the energy bills, he was struck by how little scientific information existed on the energy savings provided by trees. So he began doing research, and he's been at it for 13 years now.

In 1989, Parker's activism was, in his words, "jacked up by three orders of magnitude" when his two daughters became involved and helped interest their friends.

Laurel, now a college sophomore, invited her father to speak at the high school she attended at the time. Parker was a hit. Laurel's classmates became fascinated when he told them about the Children's Rainforest, an international effort by student to preserve rainforests in Costa Rica.

Before long father and daughter had 90 Dade County high schools raising money to purchase rainforest. To date, the grand total is over $40,000 -more than raised anywhere else in the U.S.mostly from small grassroots donations and a Global Releaf grant funded by E & J Gallo Winery. The money has purchased more than 800 acres of pristine rainforest.

Meanwhile, Parker had come up with a concept he calls "Our Forest, Their Forest," meaning that students learn about local ecosystems and plant trees while raising funds for the Children's Rainforest. Kind of a Parker version of Think Globally, Act Locally.

Enter daughter No. 2- Lisa, 16, who goes around speaking at churches and Hispanic and black high schools to recruit volunteers. Meanwhile, university students coordinate the hole digging and tree delivery, and Put together a slide show viewed to date by 30,000 Dade County students.

The first school to become involved, Leewood Elementary, won an Eco Heroes Award from the Miami Herald for restoring pinelands adjacent to the school. Other schools have put in native hardwoods and "butterfly gardens."

Trees for Dade, founded by Parker, coordinates the planting and has become the local Global Releaf affiliate. The group's goal is to plant 500,000 trees, and its motto, "Cool Dade County," refers to the need for energy conservation and Florida's vulnerability to the effects of global warming.

"A sea-level rise of 1 1/2 feet would put Miami Beach underwater," says Parker, who has been selected to work on a U.N. team studying ways Miami can reduce its contribution to [CO.sub.2] buildup.

Parker also spearheaded an ecological landscaping effort at a Miami project of Habitat for Humanity, the low-income housing program popularized by Jimmy Carter (see page 16). Drought-resistant native trees like live oak, mahogany, tamarind, and gumbo-limbo will provide shade for the new Habitat neighborhood.

One of Parker's students is doing a project to study how much [CO.sub.2] will be kept out of the atmosphere as a result of the tree planting. "And that's one of the points of what I'm doing," says Parker, who heads up the university's environmental studies program, ". . . the learning that goes on in a hands-on approach."

Oh, one more thing. Jack Parker and his wife, Janat, have built a solar-cooled home. Now that's putting your money where your mouth is.
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Title Annotation:Jack Parker
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Saving America's Countryside: A Guide to Rural Conservation.
Next Article:Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.

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