It’s amazing and mind boggling to know that there some trees alive today that are over 1000 years old with the oldest known living tree being older than the pyramids1. The older trees of Australia were well established and thriving before the English even knew of this land. So how can we so casually destroy these living long lived beings? The Pyramids, the Stonehenge and other man made monoliths are revered for their reminders of ancient times. Why not trees who have not only stood in place but in doing so have had to adapt to changing climates and weather storms, droughts, heat and cold. To these trees a human life must be ephemeral and yet so puzzling in its ability to inflict harm.
Last month the fire that destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral in France made headlines around the world and astounding sums of money were quickly pledged to rebuild this man made monument. It also opened conversations on how the old-growth forests of Europe have all but disappeared and the oaks the size of those that were felled to make the original Notre Dame are no longer to be found growing in France.
While on my side of the world, the Djap Wurrung people of Victoria are waging a much less publicised battle to save some of their sacred monuments. In this case ancient trees, some estimated to be over 800 years old which makes them comparable in age to the Notre Dame Cathedral2. In this case the sacred trees are still standing so surely a similar concerted outpouring of goodwill can see them saved too? Unfortunately it seems that not all sacred sties are the same. Definitely man-made monuments, particularly those of Western origin, seem to garner a much higher level of appreciation in the western world. Sadly in this case the trees in question are being sentenced to death to make way for a realignment of a highway. 800 years of history, culture and life obliterated for a couple of minutes shorter drive.
I saw photo of one of the trees in question and I wonder if the planners who thought out the grand highway project have actually seen what is being destroyed. I cannot understand how you can see something so venerable with age and beauty and still sign off on its destruction. It indicates how far we need to go to find our way back to respecting that which is not human or blatantly human serving. To once again have the humility and wisdom to see life and it’s sacredness in the trees, the rivers, the mountains and the earth itself. If we are to have a sustainable society it is what is needed, and you don’t get more sustainable than the 40 000 plus years of continuous inhabitation by Indigenous people in Australia.
This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites our family. All things are connected. – Chief Seattle (Suquamish tribe 1848)
1. List of Oldest Trees. Wikipedia. 2019. – well worth scrolling through!
2. The Government wants to bulldoze my Inheritance: 800-year-old sacred tree. Nyuka Gorrie. The Guardian. 12 April 2019.
Image: Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree from Sri Lanka, planted in 288 BC making it the oldest known human planted tree.