Chainsaw Massacres

One of the very first scientific facts I remember learning at school was about our close relationship with trees. Even at that young age I was deeply moved by the knowledge that we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide while trees convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen. The health of our planet is essential for our very existence and trees form a very important part of the planet’s health.

So why do people keep cutting down trees?

I love trees and, having travelled to other Indonesian islands, I am distressed to see that where the trees have gone the land is rapidly turning to desert, there are severe water shortages and people are poor and starving. I am also saddened to find that most people just don’t see it.

I once asked a highly regarded tourism figure in Bali what it was that made Bali a place attractive to visitors. “The people” he said. “Yes and what else?” “The culture.” “Yes and what else?” He started to flounder. “The beaches” I prompted. “Yes, the beaches” he agreed “Though they are not the best in the world so what else is there in Bali?” He was totally lost now.

“People are fascinated by volcanoes” I offered. He didn’t much agree with that. “One of the most important factors is that this is a tropical island.” I suggested. Well, yes, he could see that. “…and the things that make it feel tropical are the reefs and the vegetation.” I suggested that if people keep cutting down trees at the rate they are, very soon Bali will not be a tropical paradise anymore. Sadly he couldn’t understand my point of view at all.

I live in Sanur and for me one of the most wonderful things about Sanur is its old trees planted by forward thinking people many years ago.

Unfortunately in recent years they have been disappearing one by one. The continual removal of many landmark trees is, I suggest, destroying Sanur’s greatest asset. The trees outside the Hyatt, La Taverna and The Village still remain, thank goodness, but for the most part the main street of Sanur is steadily becoming hotter and more of a concrete Jungle. The recent loss of one of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen in Bali, in the driveway of the Griya Santrian Hotel, was particularly tragic.

By cutting down trees the people are destroying what is their most important asset, the beauty of Bali.

So why am I bringing up the subject of trees? The answer is simple. For many years I have dealt with land developers, architects and maintenance people who create reasons to justify cutting down trees. Whether they universally hate trees I don’t know but it certainly appears that they do. Perhaps there is some deep seated desire to control rather than work with the environment, they want trees but only where they put them.

Land developers nearly always want to clear all the trees from any land they develop. Trying to persuade them not to can be very difficult.

This is important to consider if you are building a house or even adding an extension. Trees grow quickly in Bali but it will still take 30 or 40 years for them to reach full maturity. If you have a piece of land with beautiful trees on it try and work with the trees if you can. If your builder says they must come down find another builder.

I once met a very switched on architect in Brisbane who would design his developments around the trees that existed on the site. When issuing a contract to the contractors he would include a clause that gave hefty financial penalties for every tree that was “accidentally” lost. He saved many beautiful trees, trees that really made his developments very special. Even then he had a continuous battle trying to get development contractors to obey his instructions.

Living with trees is not difficult and with a few simple considerations at the design stage they can cause no problems and provide a better environment round your home.

•    Coconut trees drop coconuts so don’t situate them near driveways, garages or with public areas underneath  them (a falling coconut can be a bit of a headache).

•    These days modern fully sealed PVC pipes do not haveproblems with tree roots getting into them.

•    Trees drop leaves, consider this when positioning a swimming pool.

•    Old trees may get termites in them so branches mayfall off. Overhanging branches should be checked and removed if they become dangerous.

•    If you cut off an original growth branch and a new onegrows in its place just beware that regrowth branchesare not as strong and are more likely to break off than the original growth.

•    Trees overhanging alang alang (thatched) roofs tend torot the alang alang fairly quickly.

The other day I walked down a narrow alleyway towards the beach. It was very hot and dusty made worse by the bare concrete of high walls down each side. I turned a corner and found myself in a beautiful road. It was suddenly cool and shady under the large trees that lined it. The contrast was amazing.

So why do people keep cutting down trees?

By the way, the rain has now started and it is time to make sure you have a recharge well (see ) so all the rain from your roof and garden can go back into the ground to feed your bore well pump through the next dry season.

Previous “Fixed Abode” articles can be found subject indexed on our website at Opinions expressed are those of Phil Wilson. He can be contacted through the website or the office on 0361 288 789 or  08123 847 852. 

Copyright © 2020 Phil Wilson

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