There’s been wailing and gnashing of teeth (and I would have joined them if I had known about it) at the felling of a magnificent plane tree adjacent to a road in Hackney, London. It was called the Happy Man tree. It had occupied the Woodbury down area in North London for 150 years. It was voted the Woodland Trust’s tree of the year by the public last October. Activists had occupied the tree to try and prevent it being chopped down. Yesterday it happened. Police dragged a protester from the branches of the tree and then developers started up their chainsaws at about 9 am.
One of the protesters, Maria Gallastegui, was among 30 guarding the tree in shifts. She was sleeping on decking constructed in the tree’s branches. She was woken by 60 police officers and council workers and hauled down. She knew the time had come.
All of a sudden a lot of special bailiffs came at about 7 o’clock…I knew straight away and thought, oh my gosh, this is the day. I set off the alarm to people.
Protesters arrived. Some fell to their knees screaming and wailing and I can fully understand the pain they felt.
A barrister, Paul Powlesland, tied a chain around his neck and attached it to a tree nearby and said that he would jump if the chainsaws weren’t stopped. The chainsaws continued and he eventually came down. By 11 am the tree had been felled and was being carved up.
Eleanor Harrison, 26, cried as she watched it fall. She said that the tree “had survived two world wars but it can’t survive corporate greed”.
COMMENT: For me, this is symbolic of the constant pressure to build housing for people which in turn is due to population growth in the UK. This growth is partly due to immigration and increased immigration is due to many things one of which is increased population in countries where there is poverty. There is great inequality in the world on a country by country basis. This is why there is a huge migration of people from Africa, for example, to Europe and upwards all the way through to the UK. Ultimately the problem is about human population growth and nobody, or almost nobody, wants to tackle it.
The felling of the Happy Man tree is symbolic of this fearful underlying problem which is ultimately destroying the planet in various ways including global warming, and plastic pollution which is ravaging the oceans. It is coming back to haunt us because humans are ingesting this plastic, the plastic that we threw away years ago.