In the last couple months:
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).
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?