Our trees are awesome. These incredible, carbon munching, landscape making organisms are much cleverer than we ever thought and much, much older, (proven by 18th century landscape art). Micro- evolution has allowed for site specific growth habits for every possible set of soil and climate variable, indeed trees actually create the soil, stabilise the landscape and can alter the climate.
Trees are the answer to most of our environmental problems, including in the seas, as trees provide the base material for products that can replace plastic.
However in the UK, despite the existence of the largest tree and woodland NGOs in the world, our non woodland trees are being destroyed at an extraordinary rate and any British advances in tree research are simply ignored. The arb industry have tools which make things worse; like Airspades – which blast the rhizosphere away and are yet used in investigating roots?! We are busy destroying trees in the belief that they destroy our infrastructure and landscape features when actually they were often planted as integral elements to the success of such infrastructure and landscape features.
The importance of trees is swept aside with the reasoning more can be planted. But this just isn’t true! Mainly because we are not very good at it, losses are huge of the cheap imported, frankly crappy, trees we are planting.
We aren’t even planting enough in the first place. Promises of replanting are increasingly rarely carried out.
The Sheffield debacle has exposed, amongst other things, in regards our trees; the lack of legal protection; the weakness of policy and guidance; the dangers of a poorly regulated biomass industry; and, yet again, the extraordinary cost to the taxpayer councils are willing to pay out to prolong protest.
It is all well and good to highlight the ludicrous situation we are in when our Foreign Minister states that there is no tree over the age of 200 in the UK or that elected Councillors are prepared to do ‘Trumpesque’ battles with world renowned tree specialists on social media, but this does little to actually change policy making, but clearly creates even more belligerence from our policy makers.
Meanwhile, people seem to be taking the future into their own hands; hundreds of people will attend a Wassail on a cold January night – numbers that any church, indeed cathedral, or NGO PR event would be ecstatic about.
A child planting dozens of acorns has achieved more in one year than most salaried PR staff of any of our national tree or woodland organisations
And I know of at least three local planting schemes where the trees have been grown, (using seeds from local trees), and planted by schoolchildren, taking more care to do so than many of the underpaid, overworked employees of landscaping firms subcontracted for the plethora of unaffordable housing development schemes. There is strictly no PR, no fuss – just doing it for the sake of realising it is important to do so.
The many hugely successful small, local planting projects or one off events ties in nicely with the wave of new research proving the genetic variation tree by tree in our landscapes is so vital in providing an effective barrier against climate change, pests, pathogens and diseases.
The only solution we have left is education, to tell the truth about trees to future generations and highlight good practice (made easier by the huge amount of bad practice we increasingly see in all our landscapes). I hope my generation will be the last to put up with the flooding of disinformation from a lazy media, the abuse of power by policy makers who have forgotten they are there to serve and the money grabbing by incumbent organisations without care about the real issues at stake – including the most awful fact that we are losing more trees annually than any preceding year.
We have failed in regards our trees, it is up to us to provide all the information and tools to enable our children to create the legacy we should have provided for them to provide it for their children.