Yesterday, men with a jones for dead wood came into my property and cut eight pine trees that I had planted twenty-five years ago. Each tree had grown to a height of thirty-five feet. I had planted them as wind break for the birds that make my neighborhood one of the few places in town legitimizes its claim of being bird sanctuary. Other animals enjoyed their shelter. Mine is a neighbourhood where the beleaguered wildlife still finds refuge. I have no physical need of live trees, but I love them nevertheless. I loved these pine trees particularly after a heavy snow fall. A couple of winters ago, I was inordinately proud that a photograph I took of them appeared on The Washington Post"s online edition. So proud was I that I had the photo made into a holiday card. That was a good thing. Besides the photo, all that remains of them is stumps and broken branches.
I would not call the people who cut my trees redneck barbarians. I would not say that they are rapists of the local ecology or eco-terrorists. I would not even say that they uneducated, money-grubbing little people. I can say that they are workers in the pay of the municipality. They were hired to cut trees and cut trees and they did it with a vengeance. They took ten minutes to do away with trees that took a quarter of a century to mature. No, I would not call them stupid people with no sense of history and no conscience. When confronted, they tried to justify themselves with the age-old excuse of those who commit destructive acts,
"We did what we were told."
You see, I believe that people of no conscience would not have offered any justification at all.
The town officials who authorized the killing of my trees also had a great many justifications. They claimed that needed to place a sewer and water pipe on my property. The town has an easement there, they said, though when asked to prove when and how this easement came about they remained mute. I have a copy of the e-mail I sent the mayor, Jim Auxer, in May, asking him those very questions. Jim Auxer may not live up to the promises he made for the local fauna and flora. Instead, he and the Town council he was elected to lead, authorized noisy concerts and said nothing against the sale of alcoholic beverages during these concerts. But Jim Auxer is man of conscience.
True, he and town council have suspended the town's noise ordinance when it suited them, but that is something the dozen or so merchants in the commercial area of town wanted. It is no news that the needs and wishes of merchants supersede those of ordinary citizen. Never mind birds and turtles. They do not shop.
That loud noise plays havoc with people and fauna is no news either, but do not let me let go there. It is too late in the day for me to contact the Cornell University scientist who took the time to help me come up with plan to protect the fauna of the park. She could talk about the tolerable number of decibels and that sort of thing.
Let me concentrate on trees Let me talk in terms of money, since when you boil down all the issues, the only thing that makes sense to some people is the formerly almighty dollar. The estate of West Virginia, in its infinite wisdom, makes it illegal for folks to go around chopping down trees in other folks property. Having lawyered up, I can probably get the municipality to pay three times the cost of the trees I lost. Trouble is, I do not see how I can be compensated for them. I am sixty-four. I will be eighty-nine before five-year-old seedlings, identical to those I planted attain their mature height. That is a moot point if the town condemns my property, as one of its hirelings told me it would happen if I interfered with its depredations. Most likely, the town will try to soothe my feelings first. It will delegate some bureaucrat to put on his folksy, good-old boy act together and get the little woman to shut up. My lawyer will talk to the town lawyer and some compromise will be reached.
Whatever happens, the trees are gone. Much as it hurts me to see the place where they stood for so long, it hurts me more to think that I was wrong to care for things such as fauna and flora in a community whose record on environmental issues is so poor. It helps to repeat a little mantra much in vogue in Brazil, my country of origin,
Sou brasileira e nao desisto--I am Brazilian and I do not give up.I can get through this.
What I cannot do is trust the leaders of my community to leave behind a living legacy of quiet green spaces and clean water for future generations.