I've written several times about my concern at the plight of trees in this country and the apparent ignorance much of the public seem to have for the vital contribution trees make to our health and well-being, not to mention their beauty and ecological importance in both our countryside and towns.
But I continue to receive news of brutal severing, felling and destruction of trees in both urban and rural areas, illustrating that the problem is only getting worse.
In my own city, I watched in despair last Spring as thirty six wonderful Plane trees were hacked to pieces and removed from their long time home on a main city thoroughfare only to be replaced with a monstrosity of a multi storey car park.
A single small May tree was spared and it blossomed amongst the scaffolding through the summer, a tiny emblem of survival in a sea of steel and concrete. Last week, this delicate little tree was also removed, its branches still laden with Autumn berries. That was the last remaining tree on the whole street. Our city centre is now practically bereft of green.
Well done to all those responsible, replacing trees with car parking in the centre of a city that flaunts its 'green' philosophy is something of which the councillors will no doubt be proud.
During the same week, I noticed that a neighbour of ours had butchered the top branches of a once graceful Silver Birch, leaving a sad, shapeless shadow of a formerly elegant tree.
“A tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its Tormentor.”
George William Curtis
Seems that the magic of Autumn with its glorious colours and falling, swirling leaves, is no longer cherished in this country.
I recall as a child the sound of rustling leaves beneath my feet, the smell of the damp autumn earth and the first signs of mushrooms and toadstools emerging from the ground in the local woods. Autumn was wonderful, the colours, the smells, and the grandeur of even the town trees clothed, as they were in garments of red, gold and burnt sienna. Now it seems trees are regarded as a nuisance.
Heartbreaking as these personal losses are, the picture is of course much much bigger.
Public apathy regarding the loss of trees is of particular concern.
In our towns and cities, local councils are hacking down trees in every direction apparently to save costs on maintenance. Short sighted doesn't even begin to describe this irresponsible attitude.
It brings to mind a neighbour I once had who harboured an irrational hostility towards two large willow trees in my garden. This was my first home, a tiny prefab bungalow providing shelter from the elements but little comfort. Its one saving grace was its large, wild garden bursting with nature. The two willows were tall and graceful, home to a family of squirrels and a host of birds. Throughout my stay in this humble abode, my neighbour asked incessantly if he could 'help' me take down the trees. I resisted of course, much to the annoyance of the silly man. These willows were under my care and they were not going anywhere. I couldn't believe the uncompromising compulsion he had to remove my trees. Mind you, this is the same man who accused me of 'sending' my snails over the garden fence to eat his flowers. If I had that kind of power over snails I might have made a fortune.....
Such foolish people abound and their intolerance of trees (and snails apparently) is widespread and irrational. It's almost like an illness, an obsession to destroy any tree that is (in their misguided opinion) 'in the way'. Whether it be a single tree in a suburban garden that becomes the target for small minds or a swathe of forest lying in the path of a proposed bypass or motorway, it would appear that our historic love and respect for trees and nature has vanished quite suddenly from the the public consciousness.
Around the world, the spread of this anti-tree attitude, from rainforest decimation to the clearance of ancient woodlands, indicates that this is a global phenomenon.
Desperately sad, yes, but also extremely worrying. Because without trees the human race, and most other life on this amazing planet, could simply not exist. All the roads, car parks and high speed railway lines they are building, at the expense of our forests and woodlands, will be rendered useless carbuncles when there is nobody left to use them.
Destroying the planet has never reached such a frenzied pace as we are seeing today. It may well be too late to reverse the trend and to limit the damage - but as individuals we must try.
My faith in most of the 'green' lobby is long gone. The majority of 'green' political parties and organisations send out mixed and muddled messages. Many appear to oppose one form of environmental destruction while fully supporting others. I've spoken before about the promotion by so called 'green' groups, of wind farms, one of the most environmentally destructive forms of energy. It appears that many of these environmental campaign groups and political parties come with strings - and agendas - attached.
So, saving our trees comes down largely to the vigilance and determination of individuals, protests by small groups of good people who are focused and genuine in their conservation efforts. But fighting these battles alone can be demoralising when those around us in wider society are so apathetic and unconcerned.
It's not all gloomy though! There do exist a few umbrella organisations that seem to bring sincere individuals together.
Here in the UK, one organisation that is fighting furiously to protect our trees is The Woodland Trust. Indeed they are working tirelessly to save more than 700 ancient woodlands that are currently under threat in the UK alone. A staggering figure. It is shocking and seriously disturbing that in a civilised country where we really should know better, we are systematically dismantling our green spaces and forests at an alarming rate.
And unfortunately, as already mentioned, this problem is not confined to the UK.
Vast areas of forest are disappearing all over the world and along with the trees, we stand to lose thousands of species of birds, mammals, insects and plants that depend on the delicate balance that exists between every life form on earth, including humankind, tying us all together.
We are all interdependent.
Whether it is one tree in a neighbour's back yard, those in parks and town centres or whole forests, it is imperative to protect all that we can.
The Woodland Trust have a form you can fill in (anonymously if you choose) to report any threat to an established tree or woodland in the UK.
You can find the form here:-
For readers in North America and the rest of the world, a good place to start might be Nature Conservancy's Plant a Billion Campaign:-
Also check out http://www.onetreeplanted.org
Apathy and indifference leads to sorrow, we each have a duty to speak out.
A treeless land, we'd reached the end of all that we could be,
The last tree felled, the last bird sang its soft lament for me....
And as I gazed upon the scene and stood under the sun,
I saw the forest in a dream and realised what we'd done....
© Jason Endfield
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