Dear friends of trees,
Photographer Jack Gescheidt here with more big news from The Berkeley Memorial Oak Grove.
Yesterday you received an email from me reporting that UC Berkeley had moved dozens of personnel (UC police and tree workers) into the Berkeley Memorial Oak Grove to again forcibly remove tree sitters and their structures and supply lines (food and water in; waste out). This, to end a record-long 1.5 YEAR civil disobedience action to spare an oak grove from unnecessary destruction.
Today, one day later, I have wonderful news to report. Judge Barbara Miller’s decision, issued last night at about 6:30pm, clearly states that—despite UC Berkeley’s inevitable spin you’ll see in some headlines—the court injunction that has been in place, which prevents the university from cutting down the oak grove, will remain in place.
This long-awaited legal decision prevents UC Berkeley from cutting any trees. (It does NOT, take note, prevent them from attempting to remove tree sitters, which is an entirely separate matter.) The case has 20-28 separate points depending upon how you count them and the judge’s rulings were mixed. The university won some points, the many plaintiffs including the Save the Oaks foundation (http://www.SaveOaks.com) won others. This mixed bag ruling is why the university will claim it won because they did win on some issues. But the plaintiffs had only to win on one substantive point to keep the injunction against cutting trees in place—and they did more than this. UC may appeal the decision, but doing so opens up, in non-legal terms, a can of worms (appeals of appeals, and so on).
UC wanted desperately to begin cutting trees yesterday (and for over 1.5 years) and they still cannot. I’m being brief here about a complex case but you SF Bay area residents can hear more about it on radio today, Thursday, June 19th on KPFA, 94.1 FM, between 5 and 6PM, from Save the Oaks director Doug Buckwald on the program Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein.
Make no mistake; this is a big David vs. Goliath victory story. The David here is thousands of citizens who have invested huge time, energy, money and love to successfully challenge a wealthy semi-private institution (increasing corporate sponsorship) that does not want its large construction projects challenged. Like the UC in Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley wants expansion—even when it is flouts local earthquake safety laws, and environmental common sense, despite their P.R. to the contrary. And they make little effort to work with the local community, also despite their P.R. to the contrary.
Another big deal: this is apparently the first time the university has ever lost a court battle over a construction project in Alameda County court. Davids everywhere, take note: large institutions CAN be held accountable to surrounding civilian populations who are directly affected by their decisions. Noise, construction, environmental concerns, preservation of precious and globally cooling green space all matter, and now more than ever.
I hope the university will resist the urge to divide people, attempting as they have so far, pitting environmentalist against sports fans—because there is no such real division. In simple terms, most sports fans love trees and most tree fans love sports. We can have it all in our communities: large, environmental sound development projects, including new gymnasiums and even a brand spanking new AND SAFER stadium, one that need not straddle an active earthquake fault.
It’s tough to find a balanced news report since we all have biases. (Mine is for trees and clean air and green space.)
I like this story by IndyMedia.org:http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/06/19/18508929.php
And this one by Berkeley Daily Planet’s Richard Brenneman: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-06-19/article/30303?headline=Judge-s-Ruling-Blocks-UC-Berkeley-Gym-Project
I was moved yesterday, bearing direct witness to so many different kinds of passionate, involved citizens—attorneys, volunteer organizers, tree sitters, tree sit “ground control,” tree sit sympathizers like me, and hundreds of other community members of all ages, races, religions and ethnicities—all actively engaged in big issues affecting us all.
This story can be easily dismissed by those who don’t look carefully, just “crazy Berkeley kids living in trees.” But it’s really about so much more, all worthy of national news: issues like local vs. state politics, accountability of public institutions as their privatization increases; public safety vs. private profit; and of course environmental concerns of all sorts including trees.
Ah, trees: just plain ol’ trees, always around; always here for us; always doing what trees do by their very nature, which includes making Earth more habitable for other creatures including us humans. They have been doing this for so long, for so many, it’s so easy to take what they are and what they do for granted. I am so happy to report that yesterday I learned that so many of humans really do care about them in return.
San Geronimo, CA
A photographic celebration of our interdependence with nature.