It was depressing to read the news of yet another UK local council hell-bent on felling apparently healthy trees this week; part of a trend, it seems, that involves concreting every last inch of our towns and cities, often under the guise of health and safety 'to protect pedestrians from uneven pavements'.
As an excuse for hacking down a healthy tree, that one is a bit rubbish.
This time the tree felling is taking place in South Shields, whose residents are furious at the wanton destruction of their street trees by a council who appear to be oblivious to the concerns of the people they were elected to represent. The good folks of South Shields are afraid that their town will suffer the same fate as the now infamous city of Sheffield, whose sad claim to fame is that of being the tree felling capital of the UK, thanks to its reckless council. In spite of mass protests, that city has become synonymous with all that is wrong with local government.
Lessons from other countries...
While it doesn't help the growing problem here in the UK, it is nevertheless heartening to read that in other parts of the world, there still exists respect for green spaces, especially in urban areas. If only we could follow their lead.
India is a good example. Recently the high court in Mumbai acknowledged what all thinking people already know - that the felling of even one single tree will have a direct impact on the local ecosystem. Justice Abhay Oka told the court that "when permission is granted to fell [even] one tree.....the tree is permanently lost - and the loss of even a single tree can have an adverse impact on the environment." Justice Oka also reminded municipal corporations of their obligation under local Indian laws to carry out a census of existing trees every five years.
Can you imagine something as environmentally responsible as a census of trees taking place here in the UK? At the rate local councils here are cutting them down, I doubt it would take them very long to count any trees that remain. Not that many councils are noted for their competence with figures...
We can learn valuable lessons from cities such as Mumbai where clearly they have a better understanding of the essential role trees play in keeping our environment healthy and vibrant.
But alas for the distressed people of South Shields, their council appear to remain unenlightened. Worried locals have set up a group to monitor and act on tree felling in their locality. Their Facebook group, South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG),
explains that they don't want to be the next Sheffield although they say that they have been encouraged by the noble battle residents of that city have been fighting: "inspired by the campaigns in Sheffield, this group has been set up by local people in South Tyneside to monitor and take action on tree felling and the revoking of Tree Preservation Orders in the local area."
South Tyneside Council claims that it will replace the lost trees in South Shields with new ones "nearby in a more appropriate location" (whatever that means) but locals best not hold their breath. Liverpool City Council 'promised' the very same thing when they felled more than thirty healthy Plane trees last year to make way for a huge multi storey car park. The new trees are yet to materialise, although as I write, the council is pushing ahead with a plan that involves cutting down yet more trees in the city centre.
The mind-set of those who propose urban tree felling is baffling to many of us. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Stupidity is on the increase and there's not much you can do when faced with that.
I recall an old saying that might possibly apply to some local councillors, perhaps the ones who make the decisions to cut down healthy trees in Spring....
Ignorance can be educated. Crazy can be medicated. But there is no cure for stupid.
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