Friday, June 15, 2012

Around the Garden

As a random and unpaid garden writer, I don’t often have an opportunity – or a desire – to quote Donald Rumsfeld. Still, in his many years of public life, he did say one thing that has stayed with me: “…But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

I often think of this quote when I read letters to the editor in newspapers, or comments appended to blog posts. The latter often exemplify the situation Rumsfeld was describing; charity dictates that we assume ignorance rather than malice or even duplicity on the part of the writers.

Obviously, most of us have areas of expertise, and certainly we all have areas of total ignorance. Unfortunately, the ease of posting a comment on-line causes many people to forget they have no knowledge of what they are writing about.

Lately, there has emerged a trend toward stifling some of these shoot-from-the-lip posters. Colin McEnroe recently stirred things up on his blog by banishing a commenter who posted one too many topical limericks. I never had the chance to read these, and cannot judge their quality, but I support McEnroe’s right to choose what gets published on his blog.

So what, you may ask, has this to do with gardening? 

The occasion of my meandering down this path was an article in another news blog this morning, which described some trees posted for removal on High Street in Middletown. And while the article did not describe these trees as I would have, the photograph told the story: these trees are nearly as dead as the Monty Python parrot.

A little background: On at least an annual basis, Middletown’s Tree Warden assembles a list of municipal trees to be removed; these trees are potential hazards to people or property. Almost always, they are trees that are dead or dying.

By State statute, this is the job of a Tree Warden. Tree Wardens receive technical training and certification from the Tree Wardens’ Association, the Urban Forestry Division of CT D.E.E.P. and the CT Tree Protective Association.

In Middletown, the next step in this process is to solicit bids from arborists to remove (or, in some cases, prune) trees on the list. But an important piece of the process is to “post” the trees, so that residents can protest their removal.

Any Tree Warden who has worked for more than a month at his or her job will tell you that the protest phase is uncomfortable. Tree removal is an emotional issue, even with trees that were planted by the City, not by homeowners.

To recall the “unknown unknowns,” a torrent of negative comments followed this article’s publication. One writer passionately wrote: “How heartbreaking to live in a world that has no sensitivity to the beauty of the Creator and how valuable beauty is.”  At the end of this litany, one writer actually went to look at the trees, and backed off from his criticism. The others, presumably satisfied at writing a furious comment, left it at that.

To all the outraged writers out there, let me say this: a dead or dying tree, especially one that weighs several tons, does not belong on a city street. People can be killed by neglected hazardous trees in parks or along streets and highways. Be glad Connecticut puts our safety first by requiring Tree Wardens.

If you love trees, plant some in your own yard. Lobby the City Council for a tree replacement line item in the budget. Use single-ply toilet paper. Recycle newspapers. Compost your leaves. Install a rain barrel or two to collect roof run-off. Do all the obvious things to conserve energy and reduce global climate change, because that’s the real killer of our trees.

1 comment:

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Well said! I think we don't often recognize that trees have a lifespan-- it can depend on the species, condition, health, environment and surroundings among other things.