Sunday, November 18, 2007

Save the Berkeley Oaks

Save the Memorial Oak Grove.

Maybe you've heard about the year-long protest by now, but I hadn't been paying too much attention myself until one of the tree-sitters fell and broke his arm and leg.

First, they've been up there, sometimes rotating, for a year - officially, Dec 2, 2007.

Second, the situation is much more tense than you would otherwise believe, given the news coverage - or non-news coverage.

The picture is a snapshot from when all hell broke loose. Someone was trying to hand some food and water over the fence, because UC-Berkeley is trying to starve the protestors, and that person was arrested.

The people supporting the tree-sitters from outside the fence weren't too amused.

For my part, I can't imagine why this grove of trees has to be leveled. It's like they want to turn the Berkeley campus - a beautiful campus - into a concrete strip mall. It's appalling.

And there is no good reason to do it, other than the fact that the UC Regents - the people who run Berkeley, apparently, thought they could get away with it.

Fortunately, they're finding some resistance.

If you are skeptical, I'd ask you to consider that this is but one protest of thousands being fought across the U.S. every day, and maybe one is going on in your backyard - or will be soon. For this reason, at least, you should support the tree-sitters.

You wouldn't want some outside interest to come into your town and start leveling shit - these Berkeley folks don't want that, either. The difference between Berkeley and most other towns in America is that some Berkeleyites are organized, and they're willing to make gigantic sacrifices to stop outsiders from wrecking their town.

Click through to the whole YouTube video to catch a glimpse of how crazy shit is over at the Berkeley Oaks.

Here is my own video of the situation. It's a short clip showing how UC Berkeley is using loud generators and spotlights to terrorize the tree-sitters. It's pretty similar to what our CIA and military does to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay Cuba - human rights violations galore.

Other than that, the video is just a bit spooky. With all the barbed wire, it immediately reminds you of a concentration camp.

1 comment:

Jack Gescheidt said...

Yes, many big issues are at stake in Berkeley, which is why in my opinion it's made the national news.

The decisions due soon in pending court case in Berkeley will likely not be the end of the controversy and conflict. Who gets to decide where large new development projects go and what environmental impact is acceptable?

Is it large beauracracies that don't live on the site? This is why UC is also angering both Santa Cruz students and locals with its plans to greatly expand its campus' concrete footprint at the expense of hundreds of acres of campus/community greenspace. Do local community members who live at or near the affected sites deserve any say at all? I don't believe, as some do, that's it's as simple as UC claims with its "we own it so we alone will decide" approach.

At Berkeley, UC has chosen to ignore local laws against killing mature native species (coast live oaks), and also laws against building on the Hayward earthquake fault. Guess who will suffer the affects when the next larger earthquake rattles the new building?

UC's original Envioronmental Impact Report (EIR) did not even take into consideration the removal of much of the oak grove. This is a sad and chilling reminder that not just UC, but much of our society simply doesn't recognize the importance of trees. Not only do trees provide the obvious benefit of inexpensively calming and quieting and beautifying our neighborhoods and campuses, they do prodigious and underrecognized work cleaning our air and underground water supplies and shading our planet in an era of manmade global warming. In the next 10 and 20 years, we desperately need more mature (large biomass) trees, not fewer. Plant new sapling trees to be sure, by the millions, but don't take down what little mature and old growth we have left.

UC has said they will replant trees in Berkeley but this again reveals ignorance of the facts: mature trees, in this case almost 100 years old, have a huge biomass doing the environmental cleanup work of HUNDREDS of saplings. And provide habitat for myriad other plant and animal and insect species. The Memorial Oak Grove was planted by men, but has now become a self-sustaining and vital ecosystem right on the lovely Berkeley campus. It is not so easily replaced.

Visit to learn more about the issues in Berkeley.

Jack Gescheidt
The TreeSpirit Project