Organisation - November 28, 2013


On the longest dog walk of the day I pass a felled tree trunk. A whopper! If I stand in front of the trunk, which lies flat on the ground, it comes up to my chest. I count the rings: 180.

One hundred and eighty? That means it was born around 1830. Which idiot chopped it down? This tree was here when the whole area was still health. When my great-great-grandmother was alive. Whoever would take it into their head to murder an ancient living being like that? There is only one thing worse, to me, and that is murdering a human being. I can still remember how shocked I always was as a child when I saw a chopped down tree. I only have to hear a chainsaw to get angry.

Why? The penny dropped, way back, during a lecture by emeritus professor Roelof Oldeman. He explained that theoretically a tree never dies of its own accord. The cambium can live for ages. A tree dies because the water table drops, or because of a flood, a storm or a disease. Never just because the cambium gives up the way a heart can stop beating. The cambium goes on reproducing itself for centuries. That is what makes a tree the symbol of sustainability. If you plant a tree, you plant sustainability. An orchard is a fantastically sustainable farming system.

Nowadays farming has a one-year cycle. Our food production system is largely based on annual crops and animals that just about reach puberty. Multi-annual crops and agro-forestry are actually much more sustainable systems, require fewer inputs and create their own cycles. But annual farming cycles are highly lucrative for the agro-industry.

After that lecture I understood my own emotion: felling a tree constitutes murdering sustainability. My dog is oblivious to such concerns: the dead tree is as good a target as any for his umpteenth scent marking.