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University of Copenhagen
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My university: Tree climber by chance

Bent Jensen teaches tree climbing. Students learn how to climb trees safely to harvest seeds or to fell difficult trees

“I usually say that when Jesus walked the earth, the pyramids had been here forever. I have always been here. I was hired at the Forestry and Landscape College in Nødebo in 1987, and I have been here since then, with the exception of one sojourn to Australia.”

Bent Jensen’s teaching includes the nurturing of trees in a unit that deals with all the practical aspects of forestry, and he is one of those responsible for the tree climbing training.

“I don’t have a long forestry training background, so in that way, I’m a bit of an outlier here,” says Bent. It is a combination of talents and coincidences that have shaped his working life. An internship at the forestry college in 1987 led to a part time teaching job and to a permanent position in 1988.

“I’m not made of sugar, but there’s nothing worse than being wet in a tree. And if it is right around freezing point, then I don’t find it very entertaining at all.”

His appointment took an unexpected turn in 1992. Management asked for a tree climber for a teaching course in Bangkok:

“There were four of us who had climbing skills. We had to go just after the New Year. Three of us could do it. And you had to be able to teach in English. I was the only one who could do this. So this forester Mr. Jensen ended up in Bangkok 4th of January teaching 16 foresters in tree climbing and seed harvesting.”

From here Jensen’s working life took off. He has travelled and taught classes for the forestry college and for the aid organisation Danida in more than 18 countries.

You should not be made of sugar

“The best thing about this place is that you meet so many different people. Many of them are quite young and inexperienced when they start. But when we pass on the students, we have packed them with knowledge.”

Bent gladly does the office work. But he thrives outdoors. Especially during good weather:

“I’m not made of sugar, but there’s nothing worse than being wet in a tree. And if it is right around freezing point, then I don’t find it very entertaining at all.”

Apart from this, Bent Jensen has only positive things to say about life between the branches and the trees. Except for one thing:

“I don’t like giving people a failing grade. I will do it of course: And I won’t falter. But it’s always difficult.”

Today, the department in Nødebo has three climbers. All of them old timers, according to Bent:

“And even though we try to keep ourselves in shape, we’ll eventually need some younger role models. Students should not have to be stuck with these old garden gnomes.”

After Bent has lowered himself down the tree and has solid ground under his feet, he offers to cure this writer’s fear of heights:

“See that tree where the crown splits into two?” he asks and points to a staggeringly tall tree on the brim of the forest.

“An Icelandic woman sat up there recently eating cake and drinking champagne on her first climbing session. I’ll take care of the safety. Don’t look down. Just take one branch at a time.”

gbg@adm.ku.dk

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