Thursday, 28 October 2010

Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change

Today I think I'm suffering with solastaglia - I'm feeling a little flat and almost panicked at the rate which environmental change takes place. Lately I have seen A LOT of trees being cut down in my local area to make way for housing and the like.

Having inherited a nothingness garden, apart from a few established trees, when I bought my home I have since set about establishing native gardens at the front and back and after five years they are really starting to establish themselves. More importantly I see how important these areas have become to local fauna and the like. One day I saw three blue tongue lizards all within the space of half an hour...out sunning themselves in my garden - the cats watch in wonderment...too afraid of their size and hiss to go anywhere near them (different for dogs I'm afraid who kill them regularly - I love dogs but don't one). I have a beautiful family of wattle birds that are just the shape of my heart...I call them the hiccough birds because they sound like they have the hiccoughs all the time. Max, my younger cat and the wattle birds have this amazing relationship...they chase each other for hours on end (one-on-one)...it's hillarious to watch and has been going on pretty much ever since he came to live here about four years ago (I rescued him when he was about 7mths old though we'll never know his real age). I also have regular visits by laughing kookaburras and a divine butcher bird who sits at the top of my Norfolk Pine (or neighbouring ones) and sings this enchanting song...not to mention countless other birds like crested pigeons, little wrens and sparrows...oh and a resident willy wagtail or two...

A few months back I had to cut down a large Coastal Banksia as it had reached its life span and opportunistic borers had set in. Mind you I stretched it out as long as I could because I LOVE my two Coastal Banksias...it wasn't until a very large limb snapped off and fell into my neighbours back yard that I knew the time had come to say goodbye...and it was a real loss to me. I also cut down some other straggly smaller trees that were in ill-health too to make way for two new Coastal Banksias and an array of other native shrubs and small trees. I also had the whole lot chipped and the mulch was enough to re-do all my garden beds...very timely too. Since then hundreds of Coastal Banksia seedlings have popped up throughout the garden and soon Hunter Indigenous Plants will come out to collect them.

Anyway, the reason I am feeling a bit down today is that yesterday work started on cutting down yet another tree. It is an Araucaria Heterophylla or in other words a Norfolk Pine...see the outlined figure in the photos...



You think I'd be happy because it has certainly improved my vista...but alas I am not - and see this one in the foreground, it is in my neighbours yard and ear-marked for removal as they plan on demolishing their little weatherboard cottage and building a larger two-storey home. I don't know how long it takes for trees of this size to reach maturity - maybe 30-70 years and along we come and cut them down it just two days. I can't help feeling desperately sad for the birds who use these trees as landmarks on their migratory journeys and often a stray one from a flock with sit atop these trees and call out to find their group again. I hope at the very least they can mulch it which will eventually break down and return to the earth...but it is little compensation...

When I first bought my house I hated my Norfolk Pine and wanted to cut it down too...what was I thinking! I'm so glad I didn't as now it is one of the most treasured trees in my back yard, affording me privacy from the neighbours at the back and providing shelter or a resting place for birds.

 

I will certainly never voluntarily cut down any tree and sometimes long to live on acreage so I can be surrounded by more nature instead of this increasingly over-crowded built environment where people still seem to lack the full understanding of the devastating impacts that are caused to our native wildlife when trees are cut down. It's funny a year or so ago I was approached to become involved in a pilot project run by our local council (which I do really like by the way for their pro-active approach to being green), however, since the Swansea Heads Sustainable Neighbourhood Group was officially formed I have never seen so many trees being cut down!!! What a joke...must have a word to them about this...