Wanderings – The silence of falling trees

There is an old philosophic question that asks if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? That question deals with perception and senses. What about when a lot of trees fall, what perception is sensed then?

There’s concern about an old tree in town that the local utility and government cut down. It was a grand old tree in an original part of town, removed by a utility company because it was a potential safety hazard. The tree had a split in it and was old. Patches and straps could have been used to maybe give the tree a few more years. Given the recent unsettled weather in the region, the potential of a grand tree being caught up in a derecho, microburst, or some other weather phenomenon and becoming a missile of great damage was too high. Firewood and flower bed chipping was said tree’s fate in the circle of life.

People were upset about this tree being cut down and I get it. Driving to Ottawa the other day I was upset seeing the stump of a grand old maple tree at the former township office. Until recently, a tree stood there that was older than the village. Joni Mitchell was right about paradise and parking lots.

There have been lots of trees cut down in recent years. The Emerald Ash Borer has taken a huge bite (pun intended) out of tree stock. About 20 per cent of Eastern Ontario’s tree cover is/was ash trees. Within 10 years, what remains of the ash species will be in furniture or mulch. You can see the effects driving around, dead or dying trees thanks to the invasive pest. Piddly replanting of a few saplings here and there are poor solace for what is being lost.

Many more trees have been clear cut and that hasn’t caused much of an uproar. Vast forests have been ripped out of the ground to grow corn and soybeans for industrial food and fuel production recently. Yes, anyone who owns land has the right to do with it what they wish, no question. But there are those who use the lack of clear policies, municipal bylaws and provincial regulations to go above and beyond what is needed to clear trees on their land.

Land use and forest cover is a touchy subject and as you read in the previous paragraph, even this bull-in-a-china shop writer tried to tip-toe around it. It’s getting to a point though where tip-toeing is extremely difficult to do.

I’m no eco-warrior, but even this middle-aged guy can feel summer days are hotter and more humid than 10 or 20 years ago. Humidity is not my friend.

It doesn’t take a biology degree to understand that our environment is changing at a faster rate. Nor does it take some advanced statistical thinking to understand that extreme weather events are happening more frequently – and with more intensity – than in the past. The tinted glasses of the past can only disguise so much.

It is human nature to rally behind a single cause, and not focus on larger issues. Championing saving a single tree rather than a forest: advocating for your road to be repaired instead of a plan for all infrastructure to be maintained. It’s also easier to advocate to save one item than a group.

Sadly we’re getting to the point where these tough conversations and actions are going to have to occur. At what point will it not be okay to do what you want to your property, like cutting down trees?

Earlier this year I was able to participate in planting some trees, and it’s just as much work to plant a new tree as it is to cut down a tree. Just an observation but digging a hole by hand and having a rock quarry just beneath the grass is horrible.

Combined with the discussion over land use and cutting trees, we need a plan – not a promise JT – to replant trees and maybe consider some of our other ecological issues out there like pollinators, invasive species, fertilizer use, and source water pollution.

If a forest falls in a community, and no one does anything about it, was it really important? I don’t think is a good idea to take too much more time to determine the answer to that question.