With the deadline for this assignment fast approaching I was really worried I wouldn’t encounter anything weird, or worse, that I looked over my weird encounter. But when I was driving today I noticed something truly bizarre, a tree that was cut in a way that it grew around power lines. I wish I took a picture myself, but rather than risk my life I figured I can find some images online that can illustrate my point in much clearer resolution. Fortunately, there are many, some rather impressive and others pretty depressing to witness. There is even a chart that explains the different types of tree pruning that is done.
My first reaction to the pruning is that of shock. To think, I have been driving around for a while now without noticing something that is practically everywhere. It wasn’t until the first siting that you begin to notice these altered trees every half mile or so.
When I look at these trees all I can think about is the modern body vs. the ecological body. Stacey Alaimo explained that the modern body is detached from the natural world, focused on the medicinal breakthroughs rather than the preventative measures (Alaimo, 90). The treatment of these trees is clearly not one with an ecological focus. Rather than building around trees, or trying to find alternate placements for the power lines, humans have decided to cut and shape the tree so that it will grow in a more “correct” manner. My second reaction to seeing these trees is one of awe. It is incredible that after so much physical alteration, the tree continues to thrive and adapt with its new directions. I wonder if there are any statistics on how many trees will live or die after experiencing such a traumatic pruning. There are even cases of trees that have a hole straight through them.
The whole concept of tree mistreatment couldn’t be more topical after our productions team just finished shooting a film entirely about tree revenge. This just echoes that we need to be more concerned with how we treat our environment. Physically bending nature to “man’s” will is not only pretentious, it is an outdated approach to the world. With so much concern of pollution, rising temperatures, rising oceans, food scarcity, and less natural land, we must start making a difference. Even if the difference is building power lines a bit higher or trying to make sure that trees are not planted in the path of a power line could help.
I also get a sense of monstrosity when I look at these images. However, the monster of this story is not the trees, it’s us. Humans have been using and abusing the environment for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Some of the reasoning behind the mistreatment can be atoned to Western ideologies, particularly Protestant ones. Western religions approach issues, such as the environment, with the mindset that these things/beings were placed here for people to use to their satisfaction. In the first creation story of Genesis, God creates Adam and Eve and he tells them that every beast and green thing has been made solely for them. To contrast, many East-Asian religions give nature and the environment spiritual respect, often times regarding them as sacred.
These trees can also speak to how entangled society is with nature. Something like this that nobody ever really pays attention to, and yet is so rampant in our dwellings. I feel like a lot of people just get too comfortable with themselves and their surroundings that they close their eyes to the world around them, myself included. It is important to continuously challenge ourselves to move beyond the safe space and really engage with our surroundings. I am thankful for this blog because it enables us to just that. This is a rare moment where we get to see the many weird/crazy things that occur all around us and realize that those crazy things matter in more than just a scholastic sense. To go off topic for a moment, I remember when I found out that the Melting Pot doubles as a sex dungeon I was taken aback, completely caught off guard, and a tad weirded out. The signs are out there, we just need to start looking for them.
Alaimo really gives us this newfound power to jump into nature, get our hands in the dirt, and try to challenge the normative lifestyles we commonly find ourselves trapped in. We need to understand our impact on the world if we want to continue living on it and pointing out the obvious is sometimes necessary to facilitate that change. Alaimo’s writing is probably one of my largest take-away from this course and because of her I am able to confront my personal biases in a new way, from a new perspective. Let’s be careful of how we treat our natural world because for all we know, we could spark the next wood wide web.
By: Jon Whitman
Alaimo, S. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self [excerpts
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010).