The chainsaw massacre - it's coming to a street near you
I drove down Endeavour Ave in Flagstaff the other day. I was keen to inspect the substantial damage the roots of liquidambar trees had made to the footpaths. This damage was one of the reasons Hamilton City Council gave for the felling of nearly 200 20-year-old trees along this 800-metre stretch of road.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the so-called "damage" was minimal and minuscule. It left me scratching my head. I saw no major hazards as claimed by acting Parks and Open Spaces manager Gina Hailwood.
That left the second reason given for this recent chainsaw massacre - that the leaves of these deciduous trees cover the ground in winter.
My goodness! Leaves on the ground? Has no one heard of rakes and wheelbarrows? And by the way, this is what trees do. This is the natural cycle of seasons, the order of nature and the way life happens to operate on this planet. Are city folk so removed from the natural sequence of things that they cannot tolerate leaf-fall? Are they so impotent and cry-baby that they cannot hold a rake and operate the mechanism as their forebears did? People from rural areas must be laughing their heads off at these pasty-faced milk-sop townies that balk at leaf litter.
What are we turning into? Have we become a nation of wimps? Have city dwellers become so alienated from the wheel of life, so cossetted and hot-house bred that they can't stand a little autumn leaf-drop?
Or is the explanation for this discomfort something that drives deeper. Are there hidden psychological reasons lurking inside the doubled-glazed subconscious minds of city folk that causes them (some of them at least) to see the fall of leaves as evil, frightening and abhorrent?
The cycle of nature is the perennial dance of life and death. Fallen leaves are the material evidence of mortality. Country people know and accept this. Is there therefore some deep-seated denial going on in the urban psyche, fed as it is on a diet of air-conditioned malls that makes them jump at the sight of scattered red and yellowing leaves?
For many Americans, fall is the preferred season, the time of the year when the leaves turn, when nature blazes with colour for a short glorious interval before going into hibernation. It is not only a pretty show but a declaration of energy and vitality, a sort of defiant charge of exuberance, a vivacious flame thrown into the air just at the point of expiration and quietus.
But the city council it seems wants to turn the town into an artificial evergreen, a kind of fake nature where leaves forever and eternally behave themselves and remain off the ground, attached perpetually and conveniently to twigs and branches. Messy death is denied in the process. And into the bargain people don't have to get their precious city-white hands a little dirty.
Of course in winter the sun won't get through and colour is condemned to monotone green, but it's a small price to pay, it seems, for peace of mind with more time to watch daytime TV instead of picking up pesky leaves. Plus no-one need buy a rake anymore.
It's all a bit pathetic really, costly for the ratepayer, and a testament to all the plastic people who inhabit this town.
I have been told that the city council has recently purchased heavy machinery for tree-felling. It used to be contracted out, but now that "Parks and Open Spaces" have their own new toys to play with, excuses of necessity have to be found to play with them. And they're having such fun. Upwards of a dozen streets across the city have been earmarked for the tree chop. I cannot recall such a wholesale slaughter of trees before in the life of the city, action initiated by Council staff for the most paltry of reasons. Someone is obviously getting their jollies.