What do living trees have in common with The Living Dead?
Many people have been conditioned to fear them both, despite no rational reasons to do so. In the case of eucalyptus trees, particularly in California where millions grow today, no scientific studies show they pose any more danger than other trees do. Yet some people fear them, and want you to fear them too.
Fear mongering, repeated for years, can get people to fear anything — even trees.
Take a step back and ask yourself — have you ever heard of ANY tree being dangerous, being something you should fear like monsters beyond the grave?
An April 2015 study by California’s Chapman University surveyed (1,514) American adults, and found 8.5% have kenetimortophobia — the fear of zombies. No matter that the likelihood of encountering a zombie is, uh, really low.
Same with California’s eucalyptus trees (!), brought here from Australia over 150 years ago by the hundreds of thousands for many good reasons: to re-forest logged hillsides, to create windbreaks around houses and other structures, for lumber (which turned out to be of poor quality) and even — IMPORTANT NOTE — to reduce grassland fires that routinely burned across the Oakland and Berkeley hills grasslands.
So what happened in the intervening decades? How did millions of beloved, imported exotic trees come to be feared? The answer, in a phrase, is: “native” plant extremists. I use quotes around “native” because there is no scientific definition for the term. Many “nativists” say “native” ends and “non-native” begins when European immigrants arrived in America, but, to repeat, there is no scientific basis for this demarcation, let alone a date, because plant (and animal) species are always on the move around the globe long before Columbus, and long before humans moved them. Birds, for example, have carried seeds across oceans, barnacles have attached themselves to fallen trees, then canoes, then ship hulls. And of course humans have intentionally moved species overseas long before modern times, and before European discovery of The New World. (Let’s not even get into the use of the phrase “invasive species” here.)
“Native plant extremists” or “nativists” (I prefer these terms because they don’t include those who would replace lawns with other plants that don’t require as much water in California’s drought) actually hate specific plant and animal species. They cast them as invaders that spoil a good place they wish would never change, or say should never have changed. They want, today, to go back to the good old days; the way it used to be, before the foreigners ruined everything. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a mentality, a way of thinking, not a reality, and it can be applied to plants, animals, and people too.
This really is no different from Donald Trump’s disdain for Muslims and Mexicans. “Get out of our country! You don’t belong! You’re doing bad things — taking our jobs and overrunning us ‘natives!’ “Who needs evidence? – you all know what I’m talking about!”
Of course to rant like this one must ignore facts like Mexican immigrants actually being involved in fewer crimes that the average American. (And of course that most Americans are the children of immigrants, too. And vicious, genocidal ones at that.) Or that eucalyptus trees, unlike zombies, do so much good for any environment, as all trees of all species do: making oxygen; sequestering carbon, especially now in an era of global warming; providing homes of wildlife; shading and cooling the Earth, and so on.
Nativists who advocate killing hundreds of thousands of trees, just like racists, simplistically — and inaccurately, unscientifically — categorize plants (and animals) as Good or Bad, Right or Wrong, to be Saved or Killed. This Old Testament view of nature drives the ideological Holy War on Nature. Their weapons? Chainsaws, bulldozers and herbicides — billions of dollars of Monsanto, Dow and other chemical company herbicides like Roundup™ and Garlon™. Another term for it is Invasion Biology.
And the warriors? Anyone who believes these simplistic, inaccurate categorizations — and has some other ax (or chainsaw) to grind, often for profit. The “vegetation management” expert in Oakland, CA, who needs a big project to justify a big budget and his own job of managing woodlands with heavy machinery. The tree “care” company hired by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco to makes tens of thousands of dollars from “safety work” in a healthy urban forest and “habitat restoration” work — just one of the terrifying euphemisms for cutting down hundreds of thousands of healthy trees. READ MORE.
Giant chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and Dupont advise and influence-peddle — and make donations to — “native species” councils to use thousands of gallons of their poisons, i.e., herbicides. Worse, they spread the Us vs. Nature belief system, even in the progressive SF Bay Area. Even the local Bay Area chapter of The Sierra Club advocates cutting down hundreds of thousands of healthy, mature trees and using carcinogenic herbicides. This, from an environmental group, in a time of global warming, drought and heat waves which forests of all species mitigate.
If YOU fear eucalyptus tree catching on fire, it’s because you’ve heard these tall, fiery tales for years. Here are some FACTS to calm your fears:
1) The thick, water-filled trunks of Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees help suppress wildland fires:
2) In 150 years, there has been no eucalyptus tree wildfires. If these trees are as dangerously flammable as nativists claim, how can this be?
3) In 2003, eucalyptus trees in San Diego didn’t ignite while adjacent houses ten and twenty feet away burned to the ground. See photo below.
3) There HAVE been many destructive grassland and brushland fires — but “nativists” never target — or even mention — these “Good” “native” species that pose much greater fire danger than any species of tree.
4) The infamous 1991 Oakland hills fire was a grass and structures fire, not the fault of eucalyptus trees. This is according to several official reports, including one by the U.S. Forest Service (see below). Grasses ignited houses, and then spread to trees of all species, including redwoods, oaks, pines, etc.
5) All trees “explode” into flames in a big, hot fire.
6) These reports also said not to cut down eucalyptus trees because they weren’t to blame. And read #1 again. READ 1991 FIRE REPORTS.
The U.S. Forest Service opposes cutting down any forests for fire safety. Only lumber companies advocate cutting down forests for bogus “forest health” concerns — and now “nativists” who want to eradicate eucalyptus, Monterey pine and acacia trees:
“Removal of the eucalyptus overstory would reduce the amount of shading on surface fuels, increase the wind speeds to the forest floor, reduce the relative humidity at the forest floor, increase the fuel temperature, and reduce fuel moisture. These factors may increase the probability of ignition over current conditions.“
Learn a lot more about all this fear-mongering and demonization as it pertains to the current, ongoing (into 2016 and beyond) effort to cut down literally hundreds of thousands of healthy trees of several species, including not just eucalyptus but also acacia and Monterey Pine, on TreeSpirit’s 450,000-tree SF Bay clearcut page: http://www.TreeSpiritProject.com/SFbayClearcut
The takeaway is that trees — like zombies — need not be feared. Tree of all species are our dear friends, and now more than ever, our critical allies in facing humanity’s greatest challenger EVER — climate change. READ MORE. FDR’s words ring true here: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” And I guess fear-mongering nativists who continue to wage war on what remains of a natural world already ravaged by fear and ignorance.