3 April 2017

Trees

Surprisingly, Sheffield is the greenest city in Great Britain and one of the greenest in Europe. If you could view the south of the city from a summer sky you will be surprised by how many trees line our streets and valleys. This should be one of Sheffield's proudest boasts, along with the fact that football was invented here and yet the city council seems determined to keep such information secret from the rest of the world.

Living in modern times we are meant to pay homage to free trade and private enterprise. Cash-strapped city councils have had to farm out services to private companies. In Sheffield, the maintenance of our streets used to be the sole responsibility of the council's Works Department but nowadays it is mostly undertaken by a private profit-oriented company called Amey. With massive government funding they are currently involved in a long term project known as "Streets Ahead" - supposedly to improve the urban environment.
As a feature of their "Streets Ahead" scheme, Amey have been chopping down a lot of mature trees, claiming incorrectly that they are all dangerous and diseased. In place of these lovely green giants they generally plant puny little saplings which are staked to the ground and would take many decades to mature into lofty trees if indeed suitable varieties were being selected.

There have been many protests about the felling of our trees. Some people have been arrested and many trees earmarked for destruction have been dressed in yellow ribbons and protest posters. Often Amey have arrived unexpectedly  to chop down trees in the early hours, disturbing residents and arranging costly police protection ironically at council tax payers' expense. To me the bottom line is that Amey are not keen on pollarding our mature trees or pruning them. This process can be quite costly and of course such annual servicing would reduce Amey's profits.

Last night, when knee pain disturbed my sleep, I had the idea of writing a protest poem which I plan to send in to the local newspaper - "The Star". Perhaps they will publish it and it will add a little extra support to the campaign to save our trees. Anyway, just this morning, I wrote it instead of taking a shower. Here it is:-
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City of Trees

From above, the city looked green
So many trees - such a marvellous scene
Trees to filter the fumes from the air,
Arboreal beauty everywhere.
Our City  of Steel was a City of Trees
With songbirds hidden amongst the leaves
Then Amey arrived with their corporate silence
Basing decisions on  pseudo-science.
To pollard or prune would reduce their profit
Though tax paying Sheffielders cried “Come off it!”
The vandals arrived in  the early morning
Dressed in hard hats without any warning
With safety glasses that hid their eyes
And Hi-Viz hoodies to complete the disguise.
On their backs they’d stamped “Streets Ahead”
But surely  this legend should have read
Something different like “Streets Behind”
For such was the vision they had in mind
A city of saplings and wooden stakes too
Bashed  into our streets where giants once grew.

24 comments:

  1. Atlanta is called The City Built In A Forest, which is very evident when one arrives or departs via airplane. People and trees need each other - it's a symbiotic relationship having to do with oxygen and carbon. You can look it up.

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    1. I have been to Atlanta. I recall that the airport was named after two men called Hartsfield and Jackson who were backing singers for a singing chap called Elvis Presley. Have you heard of him?

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    2. The two men who were helping Elvis Presley were those old muppet guys who sat in the balcony, Statler and Hilton.

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  2. An excellent poetic effort worthy of Yevtushenko! Seriously, I'm sure you've hit the nail on the head -- taking care of mature trees would be a much more expensive undertaking. I hate how many of society's decisions are made based on profit, or the lack thereof. There are things in life that cannot (or should not) be measured in profit. Trees are one of them.

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    1. I am glad that you "got" the nub of my poetic complaint but suspect that Yevtushenko will be guffawing in his coffin when he reads the opening remark. Obviously he is a poetic dwarf next to me.

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  3. Just a beautiful, heartfelt poem, my brother. Dastardly deeds like this are being done all over the states by those who value profit and their shareholders above all things. Pox be on them!!

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    1. To tell you the truth Big Sis, I dumbed down the poem and made it sing with rhyme in the hope that this would connect with ordinary readers of "The Star" who may not appreciate clever poetry.

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  4. "Where giants once grew" - let us hope this is not all that ends up being left of our old trees worldwide. I hope the protests have some effect, although in my experience locally municipalities are not very responsive to the citizens they are supposed to represent ...

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    1. Your pessimism is well-founded Jenny.

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  5. This is such sad news. Trees are wonderful and give us such hope.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. In some ways, trees are better than us. They endure, they provide, they shelter. Though silent they have a dignity which will often evade human beings.

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  6. We live opposite a railway track and each side was covered in trees and bushes. Rail track in its wisdom has decided to clear the whole lot leaving nothing at all for the wild life that inhabited the area. The trees had been there for all of the time we have lived here 52 years and suddenly they decide that the leaves are a hazard.
    We used to have owls, swifts, house martins, and bats flying up and down our road but now, nothing except the odd bluetit. We had meetings and protested but to no avail. So, so sad. Good luck with your protests, I hope you win.
    Briony
    x

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    1. How sad it must have been to see that corridor of greenery bite the dust and all because of bureaucrats looking at spreadsheets, seeking ways to reduce costs. Thanks for calling by again Briony. Have you booked your tickets for the Hockney exhibition yet?

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  7. In Sweden we've had several Operation Treehuggers going on through the years. I think the poem is right on the dot and brilliant YP! What is lacking that Amey group is the Amé of it, they probably forgot being amiable. Any company taking on anything alive must have loving care, common sense and a heartwarming engagement, or they will fail and take far too many with them in the fall. You go get them, YP, wake them up!!!

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    1. Yes. I had also spotted the false echo of love in the name Amey. My poem is just a little tidbit to add some more fuel to the protesters' cause, a cause that I believe in.

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  8. Our state government has cut down dozens of mature fig trees, over 100 years old, for the sake of a new light rail which is already inadequate to the passenger load and it isnt even built yet.

    The figs were part of the unique character of that area of Sydney and home to all kinds of wildlife. All the protests in the world never stopped the decimation.

    I like the poem but unfortunately the only thing the bastards understand is money

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    1. Sometimes one feels that democracy and public consultation are just illusions. Western world councils often act like dictatorships - not even deigning to justify their actions.

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  9. Midnight ramblings can be productive...I hope yours are, and are heeded.

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    1. We can get some of our best ideas in the middle of the night when we should be sleeping.

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  10. Great poem. Sadly many other places suffer the same with "contracting out." I think our councils have been duped to take the contract option which is obviously more expensive when you consider the profit raked off.

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  11. It's the same story everywhere. Our local council is cutting back and things like parks and trees are the first to suffer. Love the poem and hope it does some good.

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    1. A poem is a different way of protesting and I hope it helps to galvanise the campaign but in the end "they" have the power.

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  12. I do despair YP...it seems like we have no say in anything and common sense matters not....I hope the paper publishes your poem.

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