Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday September 12, 2014.
It took almost two weeks for the trees across the street to be cut and sliced. There were four of them, all old and showing it in impressive girth, some guilty of a modern-day crime: having grown too close to the power lines.
Many early mornings of loud electric sawing later, the power line pole stands by itself, clear of potential danger. It had to be done, the team on site said. Two trees got too close, and the other two… well, it was decided that taking them down could prevent future problems.
Without pulling any Lorax tricks and jumping out of a stump to speak for the trees, I shook my head and wondered if maybe maintenance of a live tree would not be worth more than cutting it. After all, many a tree come down for various reasons, and some of the reasons support wants but not needs. A quick look at the increasing amount of flyers in our mail box in the last two weeks confirms it.
Throwing them and other bits of paper in the recycling bin offers little if any consolation. Trees came down for me to know that I can get pumpkin spice latte for only $3 during the month of October, or two pizzas for the price of one plus an oversized cookie.
I grew up in a yard that abounded with trees. We had a big pear tree that gave us pears and lots of leaves to clean each fall, a walnut tree that provided walnuts, great climbing and a slight amount of leafy grief to our neigbour’s gutters once it grew too big, many apple and plum trees, and a peach tree that was worth its weight in gold.
The gutter issue was solved by sawing off the rambunctious walnut branches and the tree lives to this day.
I remember my dad’s joy when planting yet another fruit tree somewhere around the yard or on the boulevard. I remember the day he showed me a fragile baby walnut tree in the back yard, proud of having saved it and talking about how it’ll grow into a beautiful one. It did. Many years later the fragile beginnings have been replaced by an impressive crown. My beloved dog was buried under it, my dad thought it that way…
One of the most powerful revelations I had as a kid was when I realized the depth of a simple, vital truth: trees provide oxygen for us to breathe. To live. Many strolls through beautiful forests of various kind later, the wonder of that astounding truth is humbling, more so because I know that we have the tools to terminate a 300-year-old tree but also countless, strong reasons to keep it alive.
Conservation of existing forests and wise decisions in logging should align with that. We need our forests more than ever before, given the increased pollution levels and the ever-growing threat of climate change.
A recent report published on September 4 by Global Forest Watch revealed that 8 percent of the world’s remaining pristine forests have been lost since 2000. Canada leads the way, deforestation-wise, the same report points out.
Tree planters may argue that they have been replanting ad nauseam, a welcome enterprise for sure. Yet it is worth remembering that old growth forests are not easily replaceable if at all. New trees simply cannot do the same as the trees of an old virgin forest that has developed a unique ecosystem over many thousands of years.
It is hard not to ask ‘Why?’ and ‘Why us again?’ in the context of many questionable environmental practices that have put our reputation at risk lately. Natural resources are to be exploited on a need-to basis and only after careful consideration, yet reality reveals the opposite.
This year saw the fisheries science libraries being dismantled, many scientists lost their jobs and many revealed a level of censorship defined as ‘muzzling’, which should never be allowed in a democratic society and in a country that has incredible natural resources that should be guarded in a way that befits their worth.
We hear of increased rates of cancer in areas where natural resources exploitation is at an all-time high yet governmental scientists deny it; we hear of tailings pond spillage that independent scientists classify as natural disasters given the way they affect human health and the environment, yet governmental organizations tell us there is no big danger; we hear of high levels of deforestation from international organizations but not from our own leaders, so it’s only natural to scratch our heads and ask who is right, where does the truth lie and whether our democratically voted leaders are truly watching over us and our country the way they should.
The levels of political interference that prevents truth from being revealed by independent scientists here in Canada should be worrying enough for everyone. Our land carries much wealth inside and out, and harvesting it without a conscience can lead to consequences that will haunt us and many generations to come.
Every tree we look at should become a reminder of the great wealth we were entrusted with by past and future generations alike. It is only natural that we make our voices loud enough and our intentions clear enough to save what can be saved and use only what we need. There is enough science to back us up, starting from the roots up.