The Sad Reality for Trees at a Time When We Need Them Most

August 9, 2018 Updated: August 23, 2018

Big old trees weep, and so should we if we have any feelings left.

On July 18 I awoke to the loud chirping of birds flying back and forth in front of my window. They seemed distressed. A few hours later I stepped out the front door and got a shock—the stately catalpa tree on the property had been felled (that is to say, killed) together with a dozen other healthy trees and bushes.

Not long ago, we residents at 567 Cambridge Street South in Ottawa Centre admired the catalpa tree for its beautiful white flowers. Now, the green area where residents used to sit in the shade and enjoy each other’s company is clear-cut. The stumps that remained were also removed, leaving a dead zone.

We had known for some time that this was coming. Many, including the community around us, wrote letters to object to the nearby new housing project, giving good reasons for it. But opinions of ordinary citizens, who pay the salaries of the elected officials, don’t count; the mayor and the minister of environment, who is also the MP for Ottawa Centre, never bothered to answer.

The city makes a mockery of itself, on the one hand boasting of the “Urban Tree Protection” bylaw while on the other hand allocating over $3 million to finance a project in which more than a dozen big healthy trees and green spaces are destroyed.

Over the years I have seen so much environmental havoc and destruction wreaked on our landscape with the blessing of the self-serving and self-congratulatory Ottawa City Council. The tragedy at Sylvia Holden Park at Lansdowne, where heavy machinery ruthlessly cut down 60 defenceless trees to make room for concrete and mortar, was among the worst. Yes, they planted little trees here and there in “coffin boxes” like the ones on Bank Street, but we all know of their poor survival rate. They have been replaced three times since the construction of Lansdowne.

Scientific evidence shows that there is a human side to trees—like us they have emotions. They feel pain, they bleed and weep, they get arthritis, and they become feeble and go into shock. They communicate with each other through their root systems as well as above the ground.

Trees provide shade when we are tired and keep us cool when we are hot. Their soft, rustling leaves have a calming effect on us when we are anxious. Trees provide home and shelter for the birds and small creatures. We use them as windbreakers, to deaden traffic noise from busy streets, and to prevent soil erosion. Trees improve the air quality, as their foliage absorbs pollution. The list of benefits trees offer is long.

The research scientist Dr. P. Villeneuve states that a greater residential level of trees and green space has medical benefits and is associated with lower death rates. Trees give us so much and ask so little in return, only the right to live out their lives and die in dignity. Yet the fine for cutting down a tree is less than that of a parking ticket.

What did the trees do to be betrayed in this shameful way, to be at the mercy of people motivated by greed, power, and status?

Hermann Hesse, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, understood trees deeply. He said: “Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

Ilse Kyssa, 91, a resident of Ottawa Centre for over 50 years

Ottawa, ON

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.