Dear California trees,
When will you stand up and take responsibility for all the damage you do?
It’s not just the jacaranda blossoms that stain cars, or the rats harbored by palms. It’s not even that your out-of-control wildfires foul the air, destroy homes and drain the state budget.
No, what most upsets me is that, instead of being accountable, you leave us humans to solve your problems.
You get away with this because your millions of human apologists shift blame to environmentalists or loggers or utilities or government agencies or even rural homeowners who insist on living among you.
Your defenders even rail against human over-population, even though there are 4 billion live trees in California — 100 times the number of people who live here.
To trees’ credit, you pull your weight in some ways. You store carbon, helping limit climate change. And you collect the snowpack that we depend on for water. But lately, your job performance has slipped.
Why? It starts with your exploitation of human wildfire policies to grow far too great in number. While humans did you the favors of reducing our birth rate and giving up print newspapers, you created overcrowded forests with smaller, weaker trees that are more vulnerable to drought and disease. Exhibit A is the drought and bark beetle infestation that killed about 129 million trees between 2010 and 2017.
Did you responsibly clean up your dead? No. Deceased trees fell onto buildings, roads and power lines, and fueled apocalyptic fires that damaged the air and water quality you are supposed to protect.
To reverse these trends, forests must be thinned of smaller and sick trees so that larger and healthy trees survive. This is hard and expensive work, because you trees tend to die in inaccessible places. But just like human taxpayers, you seem to think that someone else will pay.
It’s sad. Once, trees, especially coastal redwoods and majestic sequoias, were great unifiers. But today you just fuel the partisan fires. When Gov. Jerry Brown proposed changing regulations to speed up forest thinning, he got grief from environmental and logging interests alike.
It might help if you trees would demand a bigger budget allocation, but you‘ve remained characteristically quiet. That has to change, because California’s tree problems might be too big for humans. For us to solve your crisis, we’d have to engage in well-funded long-term collaborations to restore and manage forests, and change land preservation and fire prevention. Such far-sighted governance has been impossible even when it comes to housing ourselves and educating our children, so it’s unlikely we’ll get our act together on your behalf.
So if you trees want to solve your problems, you will have to do the work yourselves.