Environmentalists drop clothes at UC Berkeley to protest tree cutting in East Bay hills

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Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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Environmentalists shed their clothing Saturday morning on campus to rally against what they see as plans to cut down an estimated 450,000 trees in the East Bay hills.

About 50 people participated in the rally, which took place in the Eucalyptus Grove on the west side of campus and was organized by Jack Gescheidt, founder of the TreeSpirit Project. The project aims to “raise awareness of the critical role trees play in our lives, both globally and personally” through photos of people, often naked, interacting intimately with trees, according to its website.

Gescheidt said the plan is a joint effort by UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District that involves cutting down trees for reasons such as fire mitigation and invasiveness of the eucalyptus tree, which is a non-native species and one of the three species targeted for cutting.

The three groups have independently and successfully applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the cutting may start as early as next month, according to the TreeSpirit Project’s website.

Christine Shaff, spokesperson for the campus’s real estate division, said the campus does have an ongoing fire mitigation effort that sometimes involves cutting trees but questioned the validity of the estimate of 450,000 trees. Gescheidt said this number came from a detailed analysis done by Death of a Million Trees, an activist organization that works with the TreeSpirit Project.

According to Shaff, eucalyptus trees do pose significant fire hazards. The campus’s plans are both backed and funded by FEMA, which began providing grants for fire mitigation after the 1991 fire in the East Bay hills, according to Shaff.

Ken Cheetham, one of the activists at the rally, said the plan to cut down eucalyptus trees is “extremely misinformed,” as the trees prevent fire by absorbing moisture and spreading it to the ground. Cheetham added that he does not believe invasiveness is a problem because species have migrated throughout history and “can find ways to adapt to each other.”

But Jon Kaufman, board member of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy — a group of 500 families that live in one of the areas targeted for cutting — said eucalyptus trees played a key role in spreading the fire in 1991. Several of the tree’s characteristics — particularly its oiliness, height and peelable bark — make it a significant fire hazard, he said.

Before providing the grants, FEMA took several years to research and consider the possible environmental ramifications and took account of public comments before setting “stringent conditions” that the groups have to follow when cutting the trees, according to Kaufman.

Cecile Pineda, an author and observer of the rally, said that although she agrees with the premise of the rally, the question is now whether the rally was enough to “motivate the people that were here and the people who consume the photos to take action.”

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.

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  • robertludlum

    Homeless vets are ignored but trees get special attention.

  • effinayright

    Oil of Eucalyptus is a major ingredient in Vicks VapoRub, which may help explain why my eyes began stinging and burning when I saw those…shudder…photos.

  • alisoneverland

    Well, Let’s talk about the nature of the tree itself. Eucalyptus trees are heavily layered, and yes oozing with resin, but they also protect their buds deep within those layers and liquids. Our world is changing, and trees like this that are moist, that can adapt well, and that can survive traumas like raging fires are going to be necessary. Look to Australia for what we can expect in the coming years, and why killing the Eucalyptus may not be part of the solution

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/02/eucalyptus-trees-as-carbon-sinks/1#.VbKCnrNViko

  • alisoneverland
  • alisoneverland

    Let’s talk about the nature of the tree itself. Eucalyptus trees are heavily layered, and yes oozing with resin, but they also protect their buds deep within those layers and liquids. Our world is changing, and trees like this that are moist, that can adapt well, and that can survive traumas like raging fires are going to be necessary. Look to Australia for what we can expect in the coming years, and why killing the Eucalyptus may not be part of the solution
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/02/eucalyptus-trees-as-carbon-sinks/1#.VbKCnrNViko

  • Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha

  • PridebeforetheFall

    These same people have no aversion to the ifanticide of 5 million babies at America’s leading Baby Chop Shop Planned Parenthood, but it God’ sake, save some trees…

    • waraji

      You do not know what these people’s views are on abortion.

      • PridebeforetheFall

        Liberal ideology is part and parcel, all or nothing.

  • jayeS

    Those eucalyptus trees they are hugging are not indigenous to the Berkely hills. They were brought here from Australia to harvest them for lumber. It was a big mistake and they did not make for a good building material. Now they are nothing more than a fire hazard. They can hug them all they want, it makes for a good laugh.

    • Tom Stieber

      You are right that they are not native, but so what? They’re all over the state. Almost every tree species in our cities is non native, but nobody’s cutting them all down.

      • jayeS

        Really? You must not know that the State of California Recreation and Parks, cut down thousands of them on Angel Island. They are invasive and a big fire hazard. Got two growing on my property and cleaning up the shedding bark is a chore – every day.

  • ryan miller

    A mentally ill land

  • truthdareisay

    Not too long ago these idiots would have been assigned to a mental institution!

    • jayeS

      There wouldn’t be enough room for all of them!

  • I would like to clarify the line that “trees prevent fire by absorbing moisture and spreading it to the ground”, which was attributed to me. I think that what I said, or at least was attempting to say, was closer to “tall trees help to prevent fire through fog drip and by shading vegetation that’s closer to the ground where fire usually spreads”. I wouldn’t have said “absorbing” since fog drip works by precipitation rather than absorption, though trees do also absorb fog through their leaves (foliar uptake). The 1991 firestorm started in and spread through a residential area rather than through the forested areas just to the north and east, and it is counterproductive to destroy the tall trees in forests, such as the ones shown at http://bapd.org/trees.html on UC Berkeley land. Finally, regarding the axiom that Nunya mentioned above (not the ones we’d want to see naked), a further axiom is that after any story on unclothed people, at least one person will invariably restate that axiom.

  • Dan Spitzer

    If the trees are cut down, will The Unclothed Ones feel compelled to hug us?

    The Horror. The Horror.

  • Dan Spitzer

    Those poor trees would take one look at their huggers (see photo) and up and die of their own accord…

    • Nunya Beeswax

      It’s an axiom invariably true that the people who are willing to get naked in public are never people you’d want to see naked.

      • waraji

        You don’t get out much, do you?

    • waraji

      Trees get old and look old too. You sound very immature.

      • BJ001

        You sound like an idiot. Those women
        Don’t look
        all that old, but just like most left wingers they are unattractive inside and out.