It just felt like no one was listening to the citizens of this city.
When Sherry boarded the #720 Metro bus to go to work on the morning of April 5th, she couldn’t have known what an extraordinary thing was about to happen to her. None of us know when or if the universe will tap us on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey you. Yeah, I mean you. You’ve got to do something. You’ve got to take an action, right here. Right now!’
All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ → Howard Beale, Network
While Sherry picked out a book for her daughter (who was sick) to read that morning, the front page of the Santa Monica Daily Press reached out and grabbed her: Reed Park junipers on the chopping block. It’s hard to find a headline lately that isn’t upsetting. This one was no exception. Sherry reminded herself that not missing the bus for work was the only thing she had control over, at the moment. –Pity about those trees she had passed by so often. Her kids even named one of them Alice.
The #720 bus is pretty crowded and bouncy, you’ve got to hold on. As it charges down Wilshire Blvd., the driver has got to remain alert to the herds of stray car with cell phone attached; oblivious to lane changes or large and looming MTA buses. ..<sigh> You know people text while steering with their knees? Maybe that’s why it’s called The Miracle Mile. It’s a miracle if you survive it.
Sherry was alert too when the bus stopped near 7th and Wilshire. As #720 lurched through traffic on its way to the next stop, Sherry saw the juniper trees in Reed Park through the window. Workers had taken down the fences surrounding them to set up cutting and to get their bulldozers in place. The thing was about to happen. That thing. The trees were coming DOWN in front of Sherry’s eyes. Right there. Right now! Unavoidable.
Sherry got off the bus at 14th and Wilshire. She walked back to Reed Park. What she did next, I believe, is she listened to those trees. It’s the same as listening to your heart.
I simply walked in and sat under a tree. Actually held on to that tree for awhile.
Sherry was arrested for an act of civil disobedience. She was charged for violating a city ordinance, and §602 of the California Penal Code – criminal trespassing. She was scheduled for a court hearing on May 5th, however, yesterday during an administrative hearing she and her attorney attended, the Chief Prosecutor for the City of Santa Monica quietly dropped the charges against Sherry. HOOORAY!
A few days after her release, Sherry and her children visited the remaining few junipers in Reed Park. Alice is still there. She’s big enough to sit under and the family couldn’t resist it. Her trunk is curvy and full of character but Sherry saw a red tag on her branch. Alice is a home for hummingbirds yet fences have been put around her. An ordinary juniper that has grown an extraordinary miracle mile of age; through smog, through drought, in warm summer winds, in torrential rain, everything.
What will happen to Alice?
was has been arrested April 5th, along with Sherry for the same things. He is a longtime advocate for the trees of Santa Monica. A good citizen. We have him to thank for bringing attention to the plight of urban forests. Here he is in 2008, expressing his perplexity at the city’s “green” incrementalism.
Without people like Jerry Rubin speaking out to protect our trees, a city’s Chamber of Commerce is destined to fail, for lack of insight. The business owners are waily-waily, moany, full of grumpitude, sorely in need of greater wisdom to help their businesses thrive. Some business owners we know are completely lost. They look at a tree and see only that its roots dare to criminally escape cement and asphalt, its leaves fall off, its branches block their fabulously gaudy signs, and a tree may attract flying feathery things. You know what Hitchcock said about that?
The next scream your hear may be your own!
Ask Paul Little, former city councilman and LeGranOp of the Pasadena Cauldron of Commerce, about the trees that were cut down on Colorado. He can teach you all you need to know about blind advocacy of the intensely greedy who ruin a community for their own stupid short-term gain. Pasadena has been robbed of some of her most beautiful old trees and been given spindly young floppy plants as an apology.
A hundred year old ficus somehow has the same value as a two year old palm tree? Come on, have you lost your head for business? Did you know that improvement of curb appeal due to street trees increases real estate values by 5-20% ?
Special thanks to Sherry for her quotes and wonderful email updates, and to Cosmo Bua of TreeSavers for
introducing me to Sherry,and for sharing some of his photos from the ongoing destruction in Santa Monica:
Listening to Donovan – Jennifer Juniper