Thursday, 31 January 2013

Archive: Brockley Society Newsletter article - April 2012

The following article originally appeared in the Brockley Society Newsletter in April 2012

Are our trees in crisis?

A debate is raging among the tree officers of the Brockley Society as to whether to define the present predicament of the conservation area's tree-stock as a crisis. But whether a "crisis" or a "chronic situation", there is agreement that something urgently must be done to safeguard a feature of the area arguably more important - certainly harder to replace - than our actual buildings.

So what's the problem? I think you'd better be sitting down for this: There's strong evidence of bad planting, chronic neglect and lack of long-term tree care, resulting in an out-growing of the environment. There's an obvious lack of resources for maintenance as well as replanting, causing a constant depletion of tree numbers, where current replanting is woefully inadequate. Then there's still huge ignorance among many residents about their obligations and even about the function of trees in the environment. Residents don't seem to be aware of the need for permission to remove or do major works on any tree. Nor what they're allowed to do to care for their own trees, yet alone the overgrown street trees that the council says it has no time to manage. Little is then properly policed, where there is "ineffective, inadequate and poorly enforced laws." The council rarely turns down tree related applications and when trees are removed illegally, retrospective applications are put in place with no apparent enforcement action.

Add to this the realisation that honey fungus and other diseases are evidently taking a heavy toll (though the true extent is unknown); that young trees are being stolen or run over by vehicles and you can see that if not a crisis, it's one hell of a problem. While lack of funding is an obvious issue, personally I think this is a problem of 'spirit'. If it means anything, the Big Society should imply having a 'big spirit'. That is, all of us getting involved; volunteering to the BrocSoc as tree 'guardians' within each street; raising the money between local residents to plant trees where there are gaps and for maintenance; ensuring we know and keep to the law to protest them, while ensuring others do too; educating everyone to realise that trees protect us from pollution and improve out environment in other ways. What concerns me is that these are actually the basic prerequisites of a functioning democracy, requiring the spirit of the majority standing up to protect and nurture it. I'm saying that besides our environment, at risk here is the very way of life we seem to cherish. Unless we all act now to love our trees, our environment and our neighbours alike, we will suffocate in a wilderness in every sense of the word.

Anthony Russell is the Brockley Society's principle Tree Warden and author of the book
'Evolving the Spirit - From Democracy to Peace.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated.