Save the trees, our silent sentries
January 15, 2013 2 Comments
“The streets resemble pipes into which men are sucked; and a few trees have been dragged along with the men into the city. These stand fearfully on the edge of the street. They no longer know their way back into the countryside, and they try slowly to grow downward through the asphalt and to disappear.” –Max Picard
Duke Energy provides a public service to the extent that it (or its subcontractor) prunes trees that pose a threat to power lines. No one desires days-long power outages. (In my youth, such events were commonplace during ice storms.) But “vegetation management,” as the task is technically known, should not equate to the wholesale slaughter of trees that have adorned and stood guard over tranquil neighborhoods for, in some cases, a hundred years. Our trees, silent sentries, ask for little or nothing in return.
Residents of Greensboro’s Westerwood, Sunset Hills, and Southside neighborhoods are justifiably distraught. Duke Energy launched a chainsaw-wielding blitzkrieg through these neighborhoods last month, and the aftermath is unbecoming, to say the least. Scores of trees that provided shade, beauty, visual screens, and sound-breaks have been unceremoniously felled; not merely pruned, but annihilated.
Hyperbolic language from a radical environmentalist? Hardly. Drive through the affected neighborhoods and see for yourself. My thoughts on the subject arise from the desecration—nay, obliteration–of the enchanted forests of my youth.
I grew up off of New Garden Road, near its modern-day intersection with Bryan Boulevard (which did not exist until fairly recently). My childhood home was surrounded by woods—specifically, by the seemingly innumerable acres of fields, lakes, and streams owned by Jefferson Country Club. It was a wildlife sanctuary, but it was a refuge for humans, too. My little brother and I practically grew up there–camping, swimming, riding bikes, building forts and playing “army.”
Several years ago, that sanctuary was swept away in the name of “progress,” to make way for shopping centers, banks, restaurants, apartments and parking lots. I drive New Garden several days a week, and the early phase of this “development” haunts me still: thousands of trees—some of which I climbed, lounged under, and built forts in as a kid—uprooted and bulldozed into forlorn heaps scattered in a vast expanse of dirt and mud. The earth had been scraped clean of every blade of grass, every weed, and every tree. (The old wound was torn open anew not too many years ago, when eerily familiar killing fields appeared near the airport.)
Within many of us, there is an innate respect for things old and established, for things that whisper of stability, order, and the tranquility of rural life. Such are the trees that have been dragged into the city with the rest of us, and not without cause they “stand fearfully on the edge of the street.”
The city council does not have the authority to issue marching orders to Duke Energy, but it should adopt the proposed tree-trimming ordinance Tuesday night as a means of influencing the company’s future conduct, thereby restoring, perhaps, mutual respect between Duke and the citizens of Greensboro. The former has a legitimate duty to discharge, and the latter have property rights. Between the two there is a reasonable middle ground.