The green revolution starts at home. Or at least it should. The reality is, we’re going in the wrong direction. Every week now, as I walk, cycle, or drive around my neighbourhood I see more gardens being denuded of plant life. In spring, summer, autumn and winter, suburbia is alive with the sound of chainsaws. Mature trees that have been growing for decades or even centuries are routinely felled on the whim of a householder who thinks it might be nice to have a bit more light in the house, a bit more sun in the garden. Houses are bought and sold, and so often the new owner sends in a team of landscape ‘gardeners’ to change the garden into an ‘outside space’, which means raising it to the ground and replacing the greenery with decking and patios, barbeque areas and hot tubs, sterile wastelands of bamboo.
It’s not even just the gardens. Every year the Council has the street trees pruned to within an inch of their life, for fear that a falling branch might lead to a claim for compensation, and at the slightest suggestion of disease, they have them felled, the stumps ground out and the resultant hole quickly tarmac’ed over. They never think of replacing the ones they take out. Perhaps they know from experience that any new trees would have to be big enough to stop passing drunken idiots snapping their trunks.
Not so long ago domestic gardens were being described as the saviours of wildlife, providing refuges from the deserts of concrete and tarmac, and the chemical soaked wastelands we laughingly refer to as agriculture, which make up the bulk of our fabled green and pleasant land (Fairest Isle; my arse!)
I’d say that I just don’t understand people, but the truth is they don’t understand themselves. Studies have consistently shown that the presence of plants, and particularly trees, is beneficial to human well-being, and that their absence is detrimental, and yet people don’t seem to understand this. They think that they don’t like plants, that they prefer concrete and brick. They think that plants are a nuisance, that they obscure their view, get in the way of their cars, reduce the space available for a barbeque or hot tub, drop troublesome leaves everywhere and take too much time and money to maintain. Do they really not understand that plants absorb carbon dioxide and traffic pollution, and in return give us back fresh, clean oxygen, which we all need in order to live? And that however much people might insist “Oh no, I’m a city person at heart, I can’t be doing with all that green stuff” the absence of trees, plants, parks and green spaces is as detrimental to their health and their state of mind as it is to the environment.