Friday, February 3, 2012

Trees and Utilities

This morning as I work on taxes—yes, the dreaded taxes—the Bumble beehorrifying sound of a chain saw splits the silence, as though millions of bees were buzzing in anger at the loss of their homes and food.  The white-painted steel pole lifted the orange-jacketed cutter high, into the marble limbs of the sycamore, one of our majestic trees, as beautiful in winter with it’s skeleton arms embracing the winds, as it is in summer with its shade.  I can tell you the reasons why these majestic trees are trimmed and downed.  Cities want the streets to receive full sun to aid in ice melt, telephone companies want to preserve the connection, and electric utilities want us to keep our lifestyle.  Let’s consider whether these reasons are valid. 

First, the cities.  We all want safe streets.  But at what price?  In the south, the beautiful tree-lined driveways and avenues draw us to their shade.  Even here in the north, the summer heat is fiercer and lasts longer than winter cold.  Would you prefer summer shade or winter’s speedier ice melt?  Consider the aesthetics.  The dappled shade of a street sheltered by overhanging branches has far more beauty than amputated limbs.  How much value to we place on shade and beauty?  When CEO’s and lawyers perform cost/benefit analysis, the individual person and the individual tree or creature, always loses. If a business releases fumes that affect only a few, but brings money into a region, we ignore the few, for the benefit of the many.  Follow the money and you will see what is important to the powers that be. 

Just as an aside, here, Jesus never sided with the many over the needs of one or a few.  He was the one of whom the local leader said, “Better one man should die than the nation perish.”  He spent time with the Samaritan woman (who others rejected), rescued the woman caught in adultery (who others would have killed), and was available to all who were disenfranchised.  Paul, his appointed ambassador to other nations, was almost killed for interfering with the local manufacturing economy, when he told people the truth about idols and convinced them not to purchase such things.  Follow the money, follow the power, follow the greed.

Next the telephone, the wired communication device still present in some homes.  During an electrical outage, wired phones will function, unless, of course, they are cordless.  My mother cannot use a cellphone, so I keep a wired phone at my mother’s house for this reason, and one at mine so she can contact me in an emergency.  But, my mother is dying.  In a few months, the reason for the phone at her house, and at mine, will be gone.  I know there are others in that situation and for them, phone lines are critical.  We need a phone that looks and works like a wired phone, but uses the cell system.  If such a device existed, we could all say “goodbye” to the wires.

Finally, the electric utility makes the harshest cuts, trimming the upper branches on the side of a tree nearest its lines, or topping a tree within 10 feet of where its lines run.  Although it sickens me to see a tree topped or improperly trimmed, we need a stable supply of electricity. I don’t know anyone who could live without electricity.

My husband and I have debated purchasing a generator to provide us with electricity during an outage.  We don’t need electricity for heat; we have a wood stove.  We do need electricity for our water; our well pump is electric.  We also would like to preserve food in our refrigerator and freezer.  But, a long-term electrical outage would also affect our ability to obtain gas for the generator.  Gas station pumps are electric.  A long term-electric outage could bring our cities, counties, and states to their knees.  I love the trees, but I may love electricity a little more, although it chills my heart to write that.  But, without electricity, we return to the days of our ancestors, days we have never known, a time without electric lights, without anything produced using electricity (everything we now own and use), and we would be reduced to producing our own food, clothing, shelter, and other needs from wood heat and human toil.

I am much too comfortable in my life to want to make soap or spin wool and weave clothing, even if I could learn to do it.  When I attended a workshop on orienteering a few years ago (navigating using a map and compass), I realized that GPS was simpler and more accurate (at least for me).  The same applies to almost anything done by hand; someone or something else can probably do it better than I. 

Here is where I stand.  Cities should stop cutting the trees that shade our streets.  Phone companies should preserve the lines only for people who really need them.  Electric companies must do all they can to ensure a reliable supply of electricity. 

What do you think?

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