Friday, April 13, 2007

The Bad Environmentalist

There's a big yellow machine just beyond our north eastern boundary. It looks like a mechanical robo-something with caterpillar trackers, a huge hydrolic neck and a big diggy thing (technical term) at the end and it's lifting sections of 20 metre sawn off gum trees into the back of a humungous tippy truck (another technical term). So far, and it's only 9:30am, I've heard five of the monsters hit the deck. I live in a street which sports the last 5 acre properties nearest to the Sydney CBD. We're waiting to be 'acquired' for an enormous sum by developers who have become extremely shy creatures of late and refuse to come out of their burrows with briefcases full of cash so that we can move out and move on. Real estate has gone 'flat' so we sit and wait on our beautiful wooded block for the moment of truth then we'll take the money and run like a rat up a drainpipe!

In the interim, we watch development go on around us. Our road has been turned into a patchwork quilt of bitumen thanks to the installation of sewer and recycled water mains. Beyond the back fence, million dollar houses (I kid you not) are being built at the expense of 200 year old gum trees.

Now I'm no fan of the gum tree or Eucalypt to the uninitiated. Native to Australia and circulated around the world to California, Hawaii and New Zealand by the non-quarantine conscious Joseph Banks during Captain Cook's global adventure but . . . they are a true symbol of Australia. Magestic, tall, hardwood, evergreen! Evergreen my toe! The bastards drop their leaves and branches all year round and shed their skin twice a year leaving metre lengths of bark strewn across the lawn like giant banana peels. Hence my love affair with the leaf blower and mowing deck. Still, there's something wildly destructive bout the growling of a high powered chain saw then the inevitable earth-pounding crunch as one of these giants hits the ground to make way for a 700sq metre block upon which a rendered architectural masterpiece (I use the term loosely) will be hoisted for some upper middle class unenvironmental family with 7 televisions, 2 playstations, an XBox and lap pool. (There won't be enough room for a proper swimming pool by the time the mansion is built.) At least they won't need a leaf catcher, 'cos they've decimated all the gum trees.

Again I'm faced with that paradox of environmentalism and self-interest. We want to SELL. Our block will sustain 21 of these postage stamps for urban housing eventually and we can't wait to get our hands on godzillions of dollars to go and buy one of our own. But (and yes you can start a sentence with a conjunction) as I look outside on this gorgeous autumn day after a good deal of much-needed rain, everything is green and dappled and quiet - except for the humming of that bloody chain saw and the silent screams of those cursed trees.

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