Heidi V. Scott: ‘Long may those trees stand’

Published: 7/2/2021 9:45:00 AM

As a Northampton resident I am dismayed by the Northampton DPW’s repaving plan for this street that will involve the needless felling of seven mature cherry trees and the destruction of roadside plantings that are lovingly tended by neighbors. I find it deeply disheartening that, from the perspectives of the DPW and mayor, the lives of these trees and the meaning they hold for residents appear to count for so little.

In this time of accelerating climate change and ecological collapse, it is no coincidence that a growing number of writers and scientists — among them David G. Haskell, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Richard Powers, Suzanne Simard, and Peter Wohlleben — are reaching out to general audiences to tell compelling stories about the intelligence of trees, their complex communities and forms of communication, and the profound ways in which our own human lives are entangled with and dependent on them.

The trees on whom we humans depend are not only in the Tongass National Forest and the Amazon basin. They are also to be found in urban settings — like Warfield Place. In his online article “The benefits of urban trees,” Haskell observes that trees in our cities and towns filter pollutants from the air, reduce flooding, dramatically temper summer heat, thereby lowering electricity use and the economic and environmental costs associated with it. They also benefit mental health by reducing stress, by lifting the spirits, and feeding our imaginations.

City trees don’t simply inhabit urban communities, Haskell reminds us — they belong to and shape them, in ways that bring immeasurable benefits to humans. The mayor and the DPW have used the deadening term “infrastructure” to refer to urban trees.

I implore them, instead, to recognize the multi-faceted value that the Warfield cherry trees, as cherished community members whose life stories are connected with those of human residents, bring to Warfield Place and the wider City of Northampton. To quote David Haskell’s own words: “Long may those trees stand. They are beautiful sylvan elders.”

Heidi V. Scott



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