Poplar Trees and Permaculture

The followng post was originally published on the Transition Norwich blog This Low Carbon Life on 18th January 2010

“What happened about those poplar trees on the corner in Reydon?” asked Penny. We were in the middle of an observation exercise in the Bungay Library courtyard. Fourteen of us were being introduced to Permaculture by Graham Burnett of Southend in Transition. It was a full-on weekend intensive and it’s going to be my main theme this week.

 “About half of them were cut down,” I replied. And admitted I wasn’t sure about the rest, which are still there, although there had been plans to take them all down.

At supper at Gemma’s on Saturday evening, I discovered that Paul, a tree surgeon and active member of the Green Party, had gone to investigate the trees and recommended they be left standing. And as far as he knew the remaining six were going to stay.

That September Charlotte spoke out on behalf of the community of trees on Suffolk Radio. And I wrote a poem. Yesterday I showed the poem to Paul. He said I should publish it. So following on from Jon’s poetry post on Friday, and given that part of the Permaculture ethos is what’s called people care (along with earth care and fair shares), here it is:

 

Poplar Trees and Post Offices

Most people I spoke to wanted the local post offices to remain open;
People were invited by the Post Office to
Have Their Say
People wrote, many people wrote, keep the post offices open, they said;
Most of the post offices were closed.

A lot of people love the poplar trees on the corner.
The council decided they had reached the end of their lives
And to cut them down
The people were informed – by a letter posted on the trees.
Most people didn’t know about the decision
Until the trees were being cut down.

A lot of us Had Our Say
The next letter posted on the trees was twice as long.
We were informed in councilspeak
That the rest of the trees were indeed to be murdered
(That’s my word for it).
We were told
What was going to happen.

Populus shares the same root as people
I read this week in Man’s Search For Meaning
By Viktor Frankl
The author’s experience
In concentration camps
Of being told
That you are nothing, or worse than nothing –
A meaningless number without use or value
Other than to be used until you drop.

It’s the way we are spoken to, told
“It must be done, there is no choice,
We are the experts
Your love counts for nothing
You don’t know anything.”

So Mr Expert, what do you know about the whisper of
The poplar leaves in the wind?
What do you know about the presence of the trees
On the corner
In the village where you don’t live?

And People, Poplar Trees, Populus
What do you feel
About being spoken to like that?
from ‘Knowing These Things How Do We Proceed?’ (2008) by Mark Watson

Permaculture Ethics Chart by Mark Watson, January 2010
Black Poplar Buds by Josiah Meldrum, April 2009

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