Tree huggers vs. tree slayers

After last week’s rigging session in Oregon there was some banter back and forth about whether or not it is right to train people in these techniques – or whether ultimately they serve the solve purpose of destroying trees and should therefore not be instructed but rather in their place teach how to cherish and embrace trees.

I have to admit to having been puzzled at this black and white take on an important topic. Not to mention that I think that the social media platform is totally not conducive to having an balanced and constructive discussion. All the more so as I do not consider myself troll fodder.

As I stated in the last blog post, part of what interests me in teaching is identifying problem solving techniques and skills. The other aspect that I feel strongly about is about empowering people, as often as not we will be working with people who are not exactly at the top of the pile, who can do with being told that their behaviour makes a difference – at many levels.

As an arborist, I believe it is a no-brainer that I strive to conserve trees, where- and whenever possible. Yet as a professional I also cannot close my eyes to the fact that there are instances where this may not be possible, due to the risk the condition of the tree poses or due to damage a future development would cause – amongst other reasons. There are some trees I will fight tooth and claw over, in other instances I will weigh up the negative side effects of an unhappy compromise versus the longer-term viability of a well placed and planted young tree. Of course this is in not way an equal replacement, or at least not until many years have passed, but sometimes I feel this is a more honest route to follow, rather than sustaining an unhappy, unviable quasi-solution, where the care being administered to the tree is almost palliative.

Does that make me complicit? This probably depends upon the eye of the beholder.

What I know is that I am always very aware of dealing with a living being and therefore go to great lengths to apply the highest degree of diligence and professionalism possible. Decisions on how to proceed are never taken lightly or on the spur of a moment in view of both ethical and legal implications.

I am clear in my mind that there comes a point where the removal of a tree may become necessary, in such a case this ought to happen in a safe, respectful and professional manner. I am also convinced that an empowered, trained person is better equipped to work through the processes I describe above, preserving trees for as long as possible, finding viable compromises and solutions, able to argue in favour of a tree, rather than simply chopping them down at an owner’s whim. And when they do need to come down, they are able to do so without endangering themselves or others – or damaging surrounding trees. And that is where training comes into the picture.

Feel free to state that you would never do this, that or the other – from an argumentative point of view it will allow you occupy the moral high ground – but ultimately you are not helping to find solutions on the front line.

I see myself neither as tree hugger or tree slayer (or maybe as a bit of both), but rather as someone who passionately believes in the value and preservation of trees in urban environments for as long as possible, going to great lengths to mediate viable and sustainable solutions to do so.