Saturday, August 11, 2007

Standing People

From memory, the wonderful science fiction novelist Ursula Le Guin has an evocative short story told from the perspective of a standing person. The old tree watches the world but finds it increasingly difficult to deal with the modern industrial pace of life. Seeing the world from the tree's point of view sheds a whole new light on society's quickening, quickening, ever quickening lifestyle.

Once the tree was able to keep up with the pilgrims as they walked. Even horse-drawn vehicles were not so fast and the tree was sometimes able to match their speed. But bigger grander machines took to the road. The tree couldn't run fast enough. And the machines overran the tree's territory.

This is the allegory of life in Brisbane. Fast. Rushed. So fast that people don't see the trees disappearing around them.

Just as this blog plots the shimmering gentle river in spring, and its seasonal and tidal changes, it's also been plotting the rapid increase in the de-greening of the river valley. On one hand the drought has caused the tree canopies to become thin, wretched. The leaves begin to droop then drop, and many trees and plants are slowly dying without the winter rain. But on the other hand the frightening sound of the chainsaw, and its role in de-greening, is ever present here.

Not far away, on top of the hill, I spied two arborists standing on a cherry picker wielding their weapons. I took the glass half full approach and imagined they were pruning some big eucalypt trees because of the drought. It is possible, I thought. So I walked on.

But later, for some inexplicable reason, I felt called to that place. And when I got there I realised it was to be witness to the inevitable destruction. The glass was empty. The arborists had done their work.

Seven or eight huge eucalypt stumps about two metres high stood waiting to be ripped out of the ground. They were years and years old. The bulldozer was on its way. I felt sick. Angry. Sad. It is nesting season.

I wondered how many possums lost their home. How many nests were destroyed. How many flowers that feed the fruit bats and the bees were turned into sawdust.

Soon there will be a big new house.

I cried for the change I couldn't stop, at the thoughtlessness of the owners, architects, councillors, bulldozer drivers, arborists, who, without thinking, change this place irrevocably.