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Chainsaw Wisdom
An Open Letter to Students of the Trees
Arborist of the Future

 YouTube and Instagram are awash with Arborist content that is simultaneously eager to influence and disinterested in any critical feedback (praise and emojis only please). Camera courage is not a new phenomenon although we find ourselves at strange crossroads as solo action sports and the workplace collide. If you’ve spent time skateboarding, surfing, skiing, biking and so on, you will know that behind a final clip or edit is often a bunch of unusable tape of misses, or crash reel material. As much as I wish I didn’t have to watch the Arb equivalent to crash reel, there it is in glorious abundance in my YouTube recommendations side by side with the self-proclaimed Arb legends of the west coast.

Who could argue that letting a completely bonkers top fly into tight quarters isn’t entertaining video? When non-industry people learn what I do, I often hear about the bananas Arborist and faller videos they’ve seen. I take this as a reminder that our gear options may have improved a great deal but the public perception of how we use that gear has not. I fully acknowledge the thrill of blowing out a big top, just as I acknowledge it typically saves a bunch of climber effort at the expense of ground workers who are not nearly as stoked on the size of your tops as your 50 Instagram followers might be. The time saved waiting above will come in handy to bang out 25 hashtags to gather some more likes.  What is rad and what is regulation, and why can’t we have both?

 Helicopter rides face-up (packaged to a spinal board) tend to have contrasting reactions from peers supporting in sport vs. work-related accidents. Eating dirt on a full-tilt stepdown gap with a narrow landing and large trees on either side might be met with fist-bumps and laughs, and general support from friends and family through recovery. Eating dirt on a risky decision at work leaves your coworkers on stress-leave or seeking other employment, your place of employment being investigated and potentially fined or in court over a lack of training and oversight provided, and your partner and family members making heavy sacrifices to support your recovery and retraining into a realistic career path that is a little less flashy.

Arb-life already provides a steady drip of adrenaline that workers in most other professions can’t begin to imagine. That steady drip doesn’t cut it for many of our colleagues (as the daily scroll through Instagram showcases), and chances are strong that you have already witnessed some clips in private that didn’t turn out so great. High-risk acts have been chased out of almost every workplace that at one time had all the necessary ingredients. Among the lessons that lead to those workplaces becoming restricted and carefully monitored, are opportunities to save lives in our workplace. Thinking back to all the best bike, skate, surf, snow clips I’ve consumed, going big is a part of the best vids, but it’s rarely the dominant part. A one trick pony gets boring in a hurry (exception: one trick pony crash-reel). Dialing it back a notch won’t make your video any less memorable, and we would all prefer that we weren’t watching a pattern of risk-seeking behavior posthumously.

 Reconciling sender culture with workplace culture is an absolute must for supervisors, managers and owners and starts with their performing duties in accordance with occupational health and safety laws. You (the worker/Arborist) could help influence a change on Instagram and YouTube by creating or sharing content that is less about rolling the dice and more demonstration of planning, assessing risk and planning to minimize exposure and maximize efficiency, and by showcasing a deep bag of situational tools and techniques that you’ve obviously spent time getting to know.

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