July 13, 2024

Speaking for the Trees, Again

Rehoboth Ramblings

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We spent the first few beautiful days in June having to listen to heavy machinery ripping up the trees in nearby Camp Buxton, the former Boy Scout camp down the street that is now being leased and clear-cut for the installation of a solar farm. I’ve written about this before, citing the irony of destroying a small forest all with the goal of doing something for the environment. How many trees do you have to destroy to go green? It’s like some environmental version of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or should we just sing along with Kermit the Frog that “it’s not easy being green.”

This went on for a week or so, hearing the rumble of machinery and the sickening sound of trees crashing down, with all the noise accompanied by the relentless beep-beep-beep of the bulldozer all day long. There was a lull for a while but now it’s starting up again. With lots more woods to be destroyed, the site is already an ugly blot on the landscape, as anyone driving down Pond Street can see for themselves.

I know this sounds like your typical NIMBY objection, but I would object less to the installation of a solar farm on a vacant open field, assuming it was done properly. It is the loss of the trees and the habitat destruction that most disturbs me. My appreciation goes to all of the   neighbors who have tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent this from happening at Camp Buxton.

As I wrote before, quoting the Lorax from Dr. Seuss, “I speak for the trees”. It doesn’t seem to do much good though. In a larger sense, the disturbing sight of denuded woods nearby reminds me of strip-mining in Appalachia and the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, though those disasters are much more devastating and alarming, of course. Why can’t more solar panels be put on top of the flat roofs of shopping plazas and big box stores; this seems like a logical place for them.

Questions remain. What if this project falls through after all the trees are removed? What then? What about erosion of the bare soil? Animal habitat wasn’t particularly considered, since there are apparently no rare or endangered creatures living in the area, more’s the pity. I pictured any animals that had made Camp Buxton their home fleeing the bulldozers like the animals running from the forest fire in “Bambi” (a movie I still find traumatic, in spite of all the cute cartoon animals.)

Whether as a result of all the disruption nearby or just coincidence we’ve had to help at least half a dozen turtles (snapper and painted, big and small) get where they’re going this spring and summer, lest they got squashed by a car as they sat on the road. So, I feel like we’ve been doing something useful.

With all the speeding cars on our roads and all the blind curves to navigate, there’s bound to be a number of roadkill of various kinds. It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents as well. I wish drivers would slow down when they see someone walking by the side of the road, with or without a dog. This is not a good town for walking, if it ever was. A little courtesy would go a long way. So would a little common sense. The pungent smell of marijuana wafting out of passing cars (even with windows rolled up) doesn’t inspire confidence either. How is this any different from drinking and driving? Then there’s the number one driving distraction, looking at your phone.

But to get back to the importance of trees to the environment: Trees take in and store carbon dioxide and then produce oxygen during photosynthesis, improving air quality, conserving water and soil, and supporting wildlife. They provide much needed shade in the summer, keeping the surrounding area noticeably cooler, especially in cities.

Getting out into nature is supposed to be good for both your physical and mental health. The Japanese even have a concept called “forest bathing” (no actual washing required, just immersing yourself in nature). So it’s not surprising that having to watch the destruction of peaceful woodland scenery would have the opposite effect on a person. Now whenever I’m walking down Pond Street, I think of a quote from Shakespeare: “bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

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