Looking with Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Eyes
The Worlds Wheelchair Culture

AICHI EXPO 2005 / NGO founder explains tree climbing benefits
Hiroshi Hirai - Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Growing Village 

"Trees are friends because trees are always giving," GVP Producer John Gathright, an expert in recreational tree climbing, told The Daily Yomiuri in a recent interview. John's Web Site

The 42-year-old Canadian, Gathright first came to Japan in 1985 to study. He began tree climbing when he was a 9-year-old to make friends. But his tree climbing became his life work after he helped a handicapped Japanese woman to climb a tree in 2001.

"She was the first paraplegic person in the world to climb to the top of a 80-meter-high tree. I thought it was finished then, but other physically challenged people said they wanted to climb trees too," Gathright said. He also said he wanted to help children with problems because there was a growing problem with truancy around that time.

"They are always giving oxygen and shade. They are making life on Earth. But we don't treat them like friends. We cut them down when we want to. We waste them," said Gathright, the founder of nongovernmental organization Tree Climbing Japan.

"Tree climbing helps kids realize trees are friends," he said.

At the outdoor pavilion located in the Interactive Fun Zone of the exposition's Nagakute Area, Gathright and other instructors offer tree climbing experiences for children and other visitors, including people with disabilities. He said tree climbing was a great way to see nature and life from a different perspective.

"After children become friends with trees, they want to help trees. When you are friends with somebody, you don't hurt them," he added.

Gathright said people could learn much from trees. "When you are growing in society, trees are a perfect example of growing," he said. "Growing" is the theme of the pavilion and Gathright said he believed "Nature's Wisdom," the main theme of the expo, was about growing.

"Trees never give up. They can't choose where they were born, and they do their best where they are, whether a typhoon comes or whether lightening hits them. Even if they are damaged, they always repair themselves," Gathright said.

"That's something that society, children and adults, need to know," he added.

A resident of Seto, Aichi Prefecture, Gathright said: "Trees prescribe challenges and give motivation. This is why a tree can be a doctor."

Trees are friends, teachers and doctors, according to the producer of the Growing Village Pavilion (GVP) at 2005 World Exposition Aichi.


Permission to print requested from Hiroshi Hirai - Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer and John Gathright