Grind

In the last couple months:

maria tree 1

Dozens more trees have been removed and, for the most part, chipped, along Wansey Road, Alison Road, and Anzac Parade. Some believe it might not affect people physically, but it really has. There are lots of furrowed brows, rings under eyes, deep sighs and shaking heads. For me personally, there has been insomnia, sporadic crying spells, intense anger  welling every time I read the news or see a barrier, fencing, or banners produced by TfNSW meant to mollify travellers on this route but which only serve to inflame my rage (“Enjoy a day in the park.” Grrrrr). I have also been experiencing a steady undercurrent of low grade fear, as I read more and more about the unchecked abuse of power by the State Government currently.

The unnecessary death of a century-and-a-half old organism is not something most can easily ignore, especially when these entities provided countless creatures with homes, meals, and stations of rest. And even for us less deserving, they offered protection from Australia’s merciless UV rays, the reduction of noxious vehicular emissions through their thirsty absorption, an undeniable cooling effect (much needed even now at the tail end of autumn), and of course a nice view; I can attest: there have been many times that my own thoughts have gotten lost in the sensual curves and coarse-smooth textures of enormous trunks now nowhere and never again to be seen or caressed).

trunks maria1

Prior to hearing about today’s round of devastation, I attended an inspiring talk about Greening Global Cities, put on by the City of Sydney and The Guardian News, featuring Mayor Clover Moore and a spectacular keynote speaker, Mitchell J. Silver, the NYC Parks Commissioner. Described as a visionary, he has done wonders to develop and improve New York City’s open space, even reclaiming abandoned structures and sites and repurposing them as beautiful spaces for public use.  Other (Australian) experts in planning and design were also present, and the messages of the panel w clear and undivided:

  • Parks and public space are a vital part of any city’s infrastructure, and should be recognised as providing cities with economic opportunity and savings, rather than as being economic barriers. 
  • Increased urban density demands an increase in public open space for passive and active recreation.
  • By failing to provide this, governments are putting said population at risk for various  unpleasant effects, both physical and mental

Inspiring and enlightening as this talk was, it’s a bit disheartening to note that these conscientious experts were preaching to the converted, and I wonder how people like this could possibly get audience with those who are actually running the show (since trolling on FaceBook doesn’t seem to be working). 

Of course, Sydney is replete with parks, green, and public space, as well as a generally fit and seemingly satisfied populace. But now is the time to tighten our hold on these precious areas as the pressure to profit from any available space is enormous. And frankly, if the government can snatch vast swathes of Sydney’s iconic, historic, and very beneficial greenery today, one must wonder what (or whom) else might be taken by them tomorrow.

On a more personal note, another thing that happened this month (on a similarly unseasonably balmy night) was 6 very brutal tree removals as well as my first arrest, carried out because of my insistence on protesting the removal of the gateway trees on Alison Road and Anzac Parade. I do not regret struggling to stay near them, despite a fair bit of emotional trauma after excessively rough handling by three aggressive male police. They had guns in their belts and pepper spray in hands, which was at one point aimed at my eyes because my legs were so deeply woven into the bars of a gate. My hands were bent down toward my wrists with such force that it was excruciating, and my jacket was half removed as I was dragged along the ground due to my refusal to come with the police. I was then flipped over onto my stomach, my face in the dirt and figs and leaves. For what felt like a minute, a knee was pressed into my back with the full weight of a male police officer behind it. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could remain conscious taking such shallow breaths.

The mood on Anzac and Alison that night was lively, almost festive, with kids, dads, mums, grans, aunties, solicitors, a TV host (also arrested) all present to protect our beloved trees. There was some fabulous megaphone action, compelling handmade signs, and endless cars honking as they passed. This, I thought, is what every significant beautiful thing deserves during its last minutes standing so huge, giving, and glorious. It would have been nice to bask in that atmosphere a bit longer, since all I would ever see in this place again was to be the unusually hot, harsh late autumn sun beating down on huge mounds of wood chips, and eventually, just flatness.

But instead I was driven shoeless, VERY tightly handcuffed, hyperventilating, with one coat sleeve off, one on, in the back of a paddy wagon (whose seatless, belt-less plastic interior can only be compared to that of an Esky’s) to Maroubra Police Department where I sat in a holding cell for perhaps 40 minutes, released without charge, and told to expect court orders in the mail. I am 100% certain that my stay at the station was so short only because of the prompt arrival of my husband and four very devoted fellow (lady)  protestors who have been working so hard to try and stop the madness for quite a while.

After a few days of numbing shock as well as difficulty cooking dinners and teaching grammar on a white board (due to a very swollen, sore wrist), I had the pleasure of living a week of paranoid terror (they are watching me, they will do it to others, they are all psychopaths with guns and their function is merely to protect the destructive profiteering by State Government). This was followed by a week of near-continuous blood pressure-spiking rage, triggered by the view out the window on my bus rides to and from work, the news, rambunctious activity by my sons, and of course, just the sight of police in uniform.

At last, I am finally halfway back to feeling my usual fairly chipper, random self, except that sleeping more than 5 hours at a time is quite difficult, and it is presently a bit hard to be optimistic about the future anymore. As more trees come down daily, now without any kind of tribute, fanfare, or seemingly much notice by the community (beyond a few outraged Facebook posts and tearful emoticons), I cannot help but wonder how much worse things will have to get before we dare to peek out from our screens and arch back against our hunched postures…or if we even have the ability anymore. Yes, they’re just trees, it is widely thought that they don’t feel anything really, and they will supposedly be replaced along the route (by spindly little things with only a tiny percentage of the benefits provided by previous noble guardians), but what about our faith in the government and its purpose, i.e. not serving only the interests of faceless multinational corporations and professional pillagers? Can that somehow be replaced? And do they care if it is?

I feel like a bruised berry, but I believe my seed is intact. So back to the drawing board. How do we reclaim our home from the dictatorship known as the State Government? Has anyone got ideas that don’t involve police brutality?

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Never Too Late

 

nighttree

There is a rumour that many trees on Anzac Parade will be removed this weekend. Transport for New South Wales has not been very forthcoming about the details of the destruction of any of our local trees, despite the fact that they are loved by many in the community and have been around for over a century. If the rumour is true, it will be tragic, but it will still be only a fraction of the total number of trees set for heavy pruning (which can weaken a tree, increasing risk of mortality) and removal. Once again, the route could be amended to spare many of these trees and this is what we can ask the government to do

As for that light rail, while I’m a very outdoorsy person with no head for business or finance, I do believe in progress and I think the local transportation system has a lot of room for improvement. I grew up riding a light rail daily in San Francisco as a child and was completely dependent on public transport throughout my 20s so I do deeply appreciate the necessity of good train/bus/ferry systems in our lives. The proposed Light Rail may benefit Sydney in the long run if designed properly, especially with the current and forecasted explosive growth in population, but what is a city without its links with history and nature,  as well as a conscientious, responsive government in charge. When the interests of gambling entities, massive sporting facilities, and developers seem to be the priority in the future planning of a city, the chances are great that it will result in rampant despondency in residents (for who wants to picnic and play outside with little protection from the harsh sun?), and then the eventual exodus of those locals and businesses who give the city its true flavour.

anzac historic

This is not just about those trees, which are supposed to be replaced 2,4, or 8  for each removed (though replacement may not necessarily be along the light rail route and certainly not with century old trees). It’s about who owns the hands our futures lie in, and how they deal with Australian heritage, wildlife, and precious artefacts, how they simply ignore public outcry and vehement opposition by so many different entities currently, and how they are serving the few and not the many with the decisions they have been making. 

uptree

 

What to do? For one thing, we can appreciate what we have now. An art competition ($500 prize) is now open with our precious Anzac Parade trees as the subject. What better muses than these regal, endangered beauties. There may be little time left to admire the subjects, but when I last biked past 10 PM last night, they were still intact (some with a few gorgeous limbs  obviously recently chopped off). Children are especially encouraged to enter. At the very least, it is a good chance to take in the monumental beauty and service of the trees (so close to us!) while we still have them. I would encourage potential entrants check out the trees ASAP.

And also very importantly, we must communicate with our representatives. This gives us the best chance of a future with our 2 cents involved in its creation. One must assume that not every politician is a power-hungry psychopath, and so it is these others that we must now rely upon to get the job done correctly. You could also contact our Minister for Environment and Heritage as well as the Centennial and Moore Park Trust and let them know what you think of their handling of our parklands.

And if you are feeling despondent, may I encourage you to attend a rally. They do wonders for a sagging spirit, as there are always high-energy people there, many deeply involved in the game-changing process, tireless, inspiring, and encouraging.

Thanks for your time!

kids tree

 

 

 

Do Not Give Up

At present, our state government is a stifling one. Unless you are a property developer, mining company, or a gambling entity, it is likely that you feel you are getting the short end of the legislative stick. We have excessive fines for cyclists, over-stringent laws on alcohol sales and late night club entry, and even protesting rights being taken from us. Perhaps worst of all is the land grabbing that is taking place at lightning speed throughout Sydney, where massive apartment blocks suddenly tower cold and harsh over us and abhorrent freeway systems (bound to wreak havoc on neighbourhoods and future traffic flow) are being dug. It is easy to feel disenfranchised, even crushed beneath the wheel of a very powerful and complicated machine, and it becomes so much easier to bury our faces into the numbing glow of our gadgets and the comfort of our daily grind than to face the ugly truth and seek ways of changing the current state of affairs.

Of course this superficial balm only makes things worse. The backroom deals that have been carried out beneath our noses, which gifted us with a hideous, unusable “pedestrian and cyclist bridge,” and a light rail route which ploughs destructively through some of the most scenic and historic living canopy of any modern city, happened because too many were asleep at the wheel, wolves were at full attention, cunning, and very happy to feast on the docile, grazing flock which is Sydney.

What to do? We must awaken those at the wheel. Our voices must be varied, persistent, and loud. They must come from every political affiliation, economic stratus, and career. They must be nans, retired servicemen, rugby coaches, celebrities (yes, I mean you, Costa  and Peter Garrett), and teens. I’m always a bit taken aback each time an Australian tells me, “We can’t change anything. They don’t listen. Pointless to try. Now for that flat white.” Certain politicians seem to promote this belief, as you might have experienced if you’ve rung the office of certain members to complain or inquire.

Though it’s a struggle, we must try not to get crushed by the wheel (for too long, anyway). My interest in our local trees awakened me to the fact that there are groups of very normal, earnest people fighting a good fight and continuing to reach out to the public, the  press, and the politicians despite occasionally being made to feel like maniacs and extremists. They are from all walks of life and they are very hurt by how the government is currently behaving, watching their own beautiful surroundings torn down by our “leaders” under the cover of night. They are as full of doubts, faults, and fears as any of us, but they still continue to fight the battle with their own creativity (as I don’t think there’s a handbook), private resources, at the cost of their personal and family time in pretty much all cases. The alternative, however – burying their heads in the sands and just hoping, pretending it will all get better soon – would be far worse.

If this government problem could be likened to a giant jigsaw, then it is apparent that every resident and citizen in this state has a piece of the solution. Our tax money pays the wages of our representatives and funds the projects they choose to execute so the discovery that they are making and steadily carrying out even more severe plans for our local area should make us scream bloody murder. It has been proved throughout history that many small voices together become deafening. And so, please say your piece, and add your voice.

Below is a list of all parliament members and their contact details. It’s a good time to get comfortable calling/writing/emailing/tweeting/messaging them and letting them know how you feel. Do it with a friend (or 20) and compare notes. Ask the ministers to call for pause the construction of the Light Rail, in order to carry out a  Parliamentary Inquiry which may save 600+ remaining trees.

http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/V3ListCurrentLAMembers#

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