S – is for Saving the Trees
S – is for Sustainability
S – is for Spiking
This website has been created to explain the ‘White S’ campaign.
We believe that the local councils and business interests in Oxford have no respect for the few remaining mature trees in Oxford. We also believe that keeping these trees alive will slow down the building of more shopping-centres, car-parks and other unsustainable ‘developments’.
Society faces its greatest ever threat – climate change. Oxford has already begun to suffer from increased flooding, more expensive food and energy, and the future will require ‘sustainable’ leadership. We should use our dwindling resources to prepare for a more challenging future. We should not waste huge amounts of money, resources, energy and land on bigger shops and car-parks, just to sell even more pretty junk.
We have inserted small ceramic and non-ferrous spikes into many of the trees most threatened in the Oxford City area. These spikes do not harm the trees. Any chainsaws used on these spiked trees may hit such a spike and the chainsaw may break. This will increase the cost of chopping down the tree – hopefully leading to more trees being saved from destruction. With clear ‘S’ markings, and warning notices on or near every spiked tree, we hope the chainsaw-operators will refuse to cut down these trees.
Safety for all
Although there is a chance that a tree-spike will cause a chainsaw to break, all commercial chainsaws have strong protective screens, and chainsaw-operators wear helmets with protective visors, kevlar trousers and jackets. So the chance of any operator being injured is very low. None-the-less, we have decided to clearly mark all spiked trees with a white ‘S’ as well as attaching clear warning notices to the trees. All of the spikes are in the main trunk of the tree, and none are in the branches, so future pruning of these trees is completely safe.
So far, over thirty trees in the Central Oxford area have been protected in this manner. Together we can help preserve the trees of Oxford.
Previous efforts to save Oxford’s trees
Many groups such as the Oxfordshire Green Party, the Civic Society, CPRE, Friends of the Earth, the Friends of Warneford Meadow, and the Campaign to Save Radley Lakes, have tried in various ways to save Oxfordshire’s trees from being felled. Occasionally, they have had small successes but recent tree-felling has shown that the majority of trees in Oxford are under no real protection.
In 1998 over ten mature trees were felled to make way for the monstrous Said Business School. Protesters had squatted the LMS station, and had built tree-houses in some of the trees to protect them. Several of these trees were officially protected with a last-minute ‘Tree Protection Order’ (TPO) but as the late Councillor Mike Woodin arrived to enforce the TPO, he was arrested by police. All those trees were felled.
In 2006 eleven mature willow trees were felled in East Street, Osney, without any form of public consultation. Mature trees on the Cowley Road have also been removed, again without any form of public dialogue.
Tree Preservation Orders
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) can be used to protect some trees, and we encourage people to use this tactic where-ever possible. To get a TPO from Oxford City Council, a tree must be:
1 > irreplaceable – so big and mature (although a lawyer could easily twist this vague term)
2 > healthy – so not diseased or dead,
3 > in immediate danger of being felled.
Given that many trees are felled without any warning it is impossible to know when a tree is in “immediate danger”. This is like a doctor who will only treat a patient who is about to die. This is not ‘democracy’. Also, the Council is reluctant to put a TPO on a tree on Council land, as this is regarded as “too bureaucratic” and it also “looks a bit stupid”.
We would much prefer it if Oxford’s trees could be protected by proper council rules, but this seems unlikely to ever happen. Our elected ‘leaders’ seem more interested in helping big-business to sell us more junk than conserve our natural environment. So in the meantime we have decided to add an extra level of protection, using the spiking of trees.
Tree spiking around the world
In 1998 and 2000 Beech trees in New Zealand that were being logging were spiked, and many were saved. During the 1980s and 1990s many incidents of tree-spiking were reported in the United States, primarily to stop the clear-cut felling of ancient forests. A wood-mill worker was injured when his saw-blade hit a spike in 1987. This was very unfortunate, and led many tree-activists to stop tree-spiking.
When letter-writing, petitions and lobbying politicians fail to save trees, more can be done. Building tree-houses and living in the trees can help to save trees from destruction. We welcome such heroic acts, and would encourage anyone who loves trees to support such actions. People living in trees need supplies, food, blankets, water-proofs and support. These stunts can help to inspire more widespread public-awareness, press-coverage, and changes in council policy, etc.
The Newbury Bypass protests may have failed to save the 10,000 trees that were ‘in the way’ of the new road, but the raised cost of building that road led the then Government to cut its huge road-building plans by three-quarters! This is a good example of how a few committed people can make big changes for the better – future generations will thank those ‘scruffy hippies’.
Direct action by ordinary people
Laws are made by people, and people make mistakes. Within a few decades our elected ‘leaders’ will be hated for abusing their power. Oil (and gas) prices are soaring; half of the world’s farming land is threatened by rising sea-levels and droughts; many countries see their clean water supplies are failing; over ninety-percent of the large fish in the oceans have been fished and man-made CO2 in the oceans is turning the waters acidic; over 200 million people are about to become ‘environmental refugees’ – most of whom live in the poorest countries, and are least responsible for creating climate change.
Given the urgency of these problems should we really be building more shops? The money saved could be better spent on reducing our emissions of CO2, improving public transport and health care, investing in renewable energy, recycling, local foods and flood-defences. Our ‘leaders’ need to be peacefully but firmly persuaded to act responsibly. We need to rebuild our society in a ‘carbon-free’ and sustainable way. This ‘responsible society’ will actually be a much better place to live and work in, and our children with thank us.
Individuals often feel powerless faced with these gloomy facts. But by working together we can achieve a great deal. Women got the vote by adopting direct action. Legal slavery was abolished after many decades of radical campaigning. South African apartheid was ended by people power.
All over the world ‘concerned individuals’ and communities are forcing their governments and business leaders to reject ‘industrial capitalism’ in favour of more humane and eco-friendly policies. Many countries in Latin America are transforming their societies rapidly in these directions, despite interference by Western Governments, and the corporate media. Visit the indymedia.org network of global websites to see examples of these inspiring struggles.
Be part of a sustainable future
We are committed to peaceful direct action, however, we also believe in physically getting in the way of the destruction. We reject and are stopping the ‘legalised’ corporate and state violence against our environment, our climate and our future.
Here is a small JPEG image of the warning notice which is attached to the trees.