Daily Hampshire Gazette
Published: 7/24/2021 6:58:26 AM
by The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas
NORTHAMPTON – I’ve been moved by the effort to save 10 trees on Warfield Place slated for removal by the city. As an Episcopal priest who left parish ministry to work full-time on mobilizing a bold, faithful response to climate crisis and potential ecological collapse, I’m heartened when people rise up to protect the living world.
We know that trees — especially mature trees — are essential to human health and survival. They sequester carbon, provide cooling shade during heat waves, and provide habitat for other living beings.
We also know that trees are essential to the human spirit. Biblical scholars note that there is a tree on the first page of Genesis and the last page of Revelation — the first and last pages of the Bible. The first psalm features a tree. The Bible describes its wisdom as a Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18). Jesus calls himself the true vine, and the tree upon which he was crucified has become for Christians a symbol of divine love meeting and transforming human sin.
I attended the Buddhist ceremony on July 12, when the trees were ordained as Buddhist priests. The ceremony, carried out with great dignity and tenderness, spoke to my heart. I understand the longing to celebrate our mysterious, sacred kinship with the rest of the natural world, and the urgent need to protect the web of life.
Of course, there are times when trees must be cut down — for instance, when they pose a danger to the public or when a construction project is absolutely necessary. Neither of these conditions applies here. Reputable arborists disagree regarding the health of the trees, so why not apply the precautionary principle?
Because trees provide essential ecological and spiritual benefits and have an intrinsic right to exist, why not take the conservative route and allow the trees on Warfield Place to live out their natural life span? I hope that the debate about the fate of these small trees will spur our city to find better ways to make collective decisions about when, where, and how to expand human impact on the natural world.