I am reading Allan Quartermain, by H Rider Haggard, an old time story by the author of King Solomon’s Mines. Coincidentally I came across these paragraphs just at the same time as two beautiful old trees, young probably even when Guyanese history was young, have been felled and removed for ever from Nelson Mandela Avenue, opposite the National Cultural Centre. And, in writing that, it says it all. Culture. We just don’t have it. Here’s what he says.
“Here we saw vinyards and corn-fields and well-kept park-like grounds, with such timber in them as filled me with delight, for I do love a good tree. There it stands so strong and sturdy, and yet so beautiful, a very type of the best sort of man. How proudly it lifts its bare head to the winter storms, and with what a full heart it rejoices when the spring has come again! How grand its voice is, too, when it talks with the wind: a thousand Aeolian harps cannot equal the beauty of the sighing of a great tree in leaf.
All day it points to the sunshine and all night to the stars, and thus passionless, and yet full of life, it endures through the centuries, come storm, come shine, drawing its sustenance from the cool bosom of its mother earth, and as the slow years roll by, learning the great mysteries of growth and of decay.
And so on and on through generations, outliving individuals, customs, dynasties – all save the landscape it adorns and human nature – till the appointed day when the wind wins the long battle and rejoices over a reclaimed space, or decay puts the last stroke to his fungus-fingered work.
Ah, one should always think twice before one cuts down a tree!”
There it is – outliving individuals, customs, dynasties – old trees you are mourned in your vandalised deaths. In other countries there are Tree Preservation Orders on trees above a certain diameter with large fines for destroying them. In other countries people and – yes, even Governments – revere and appreciate the value of these wonderful plants. So why are we destroying so many trees in our “garden” city???