Jim Eagles reviews Tree Sense


Jim Eagles reviews Tree Sense: Ways of thinking about trees, edited by Susette Goldsmith, for Kete. 

‘In her introduction to this book of essays on trees, editor Susette Goldsmith recounts the sort of incident which probably occurs in every neighbourhood in the land and illustrates very well the conflicting views that people have about trees.

Looking out the window of her home, she saw a neighbour trimming a young self-sown pōhutukawa on the edge of the footpath outside his house because he thought its leaves were brushing the powerlines and affecting his computer. Another neighbour passing by urged the trimmer to cut the whole tree down as it was impeding his view. So Susette leaned out the window and spoke in defence of the tree which provided a welcome green frame for her own view.

The tree trimmer opted for a compromise: only the branches nearest the wires were trimmed, so his power lines were safe, the other neighbour had a view with less greenery and Susette had a view with a ragged green frame.

But that wasn’t the end of the affair. A few weeks later households in the area received letters from the local council reprimanding whoever had illegally pruned vegetation on public land. Then a council team turned up and demolished the tree with a chainsaw. When Susette contacted the council, she was told it was policy to remove all trees on public land whose roots threatened the structure of nearby crib walls.

“The point of this story,” she writes, “is not to cast blame: none of the parties — including the tree — was at fault. My interest in the proceedings stems from the fact that each of the protagonists in our small suburban drama . . . was acting from a vastly different viewpoint. . . This episode was not just about the tree, but was, in fact, also about us — what we individually believe in and stand for. That is what this book is about.”’

Read the full review here