Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Pine by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

A lot of local people are upset because last night someone used a chain saw to cut down a large white pine would stood on the highway median north of Duluth. Some people knew this as the honking tree because they would honk when they passed it returning to the area. Others knew it as Charlie's tree after a man who used to eat lunch beneath it and may have been responsible for the fact that it wasn't cut down when the highway was built in the 1960s.

There are currently 11 pages of comments on the newspaper's website--almost all sad and/or angry at first, but then as the day wore on many people felt the need to insult the people who cared about a tree, and stand up for private property, Richard Nixon (seriously, even though no one had mentioned him), and the human right to do anything it wants with the world. One suggested in fractured English that tree worshippers should be shot and claimed he was serious. As often happens, the newspaper's website is having problems and I can't get to the comments to give you an exact quote right now. It's always amusing to see what they'll post since being taken over by right-wingers from Fargo.

Nowhere was there a comment about the effects on any wildlife which may have used the tree; I think there may have been a couple about the tree's (non-monetary) value as a tree and part of the world rather than just as a symbol in human ritual or history.

Is the cutting of this tree on public property actually any more heinous than the legal cutting of the trees I've mourned a block away or just across the alleyway? Is the unnecessary killing of this tree worse than the unnecessary killing of deer or cattle because a human feels like eating one? Oh, and the circus is in town this weekend, speaking of unnecessary animal abuse. Ultimately, it's the notion that anyone can own a tree or an animal which causes far more harm to human society and the world than the cutting of this particular tree.

I'm feeling rather swinish; how about you?


Terry said...

Brings to mind David Suzuki's comments to the effect that we don't need rules against cutting down trees, or rules about keeping your ATV on the designated trail, etc. We need a shift in what is perceived as acceptable behavior, like (Suzuki's example) the shift which moved spitting in public from mainstream to marginalized. So you don't cut down trees without reason because harming things (animal, plant, even made things) without reason is just not something that people do.


Allan Stellar said...

I agree with Terry. We needed posts to build our addition. We salvaged some from when a bull dozer knocked down trees to spare our property from fire (that is another ethical question in itself). However, we were a few short, so we had to take down a couple of ponderosa pines. We asked the trees if they wouldn't mind if we cut them down. We did it reverently. We took only what we could use.

The trees answer: according to my spouse, they were happy to participate in the project. True anthropotreeism...

Jackijo said...

Only those who see beyond their own world can understand the pain in cutting down a tree. I walk near a wash that runs between homes in my neighborhood and have gotten to know the birds and other critters that lived there. There was a Northern Cardinal who often stationed himself on the tallest Mesquite, looking over the hummingbirds, Gambel's Quail, Abert's Towhee, Doves and Finches. I saw my first Yellow-rumped Warbler there, and the ruby crown of a Kinglet was revealed to me there. So one day I went on my walk to discover a clean-up company cutting down and burning all the trees and plants. Someone had decided that it was an eyesore, unsavory people threw trash there, and it was under a power line. So what was left was was a bare sanitized, plot of land and few bewildered mother Quail wondering what happened to their nests. Nine months later the Acacia trees and Mesquite trees are coming back and I saw a Coyote hunting there a few months ago, but I have yet to see a Cardinal. So what is my responsibility? Most people think I am crazy when I talk about birds (except my like-minded birder friends.) I have had my own change of heart and mind, because I only came to know the names of these birds a few years ago. But how do I convince others that nature is important to them?

greentangle said...

I'm reading a new book, "A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature" about various ways in which people are trying to reconnect to the natural world. It's actually not as good as I'd hoped, but it's much nicer to be in the company of the folks in the book (and cyberfolks, like all of you) than the people who seem to dominate the world as they revel in destruction.

I wrote an email to a friend a few days ago in which I mentioned how wearying it is to live in this society when I know how good life could be if it were done differently.

I understand your pain Jackijo--I felt the same way a few years ago when an area where I used to see killdeer running got turned into a road for new homes for rich people.