Lyndon Hood - arborophile, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dear Sir,

I've written my first letter to the editor.

Well, technically it was an email, and by 'letter to the editor' I mean one intended for publication - I have corresponded with the editor in question in the past. Not that I'm trying to make excuses.

I've mentally composed any number previously, including a good few pointed missives for Morning Report or Nine to Noon, but what finally had me writing down and sending was a news article in Critic about trees.

A couple of them died in one of the more paved parts of campus. This reinforced my worry (dating back to when I was actually in Dunedin) that sealing trees' roots away from the air with paving or burying them under more than a foot of clay (in the course of raising the lawn) will not be good for them.

Because it was Critic, I also included the inference (rather unhelpful as it turned out) that this constituted a deliberate tree-killing programme.

The publication of my letter (scroll down to "Tree murdering") made a rather disappointing follow-up to my thoughtful monograph on holocaust denial the previous week. It's not that I retract the letter's general point (I did call a walnut tree a chestnut, but I never claimed to be an expert). It's just kind of embarrassing to see something I wrote printed in a space mostly associated with various flavours of militant campaigner, flake, and unfunny attention seeker.

I was pleased when I found that blogging had put me in touch with my inner opinionated person, but if I'd understood the risks I might never have started.

I had the honour of being replied to by the University's Property Services Director. His previous appearances of the Critic letters page had been mostly to argue against people who thought the proposal to build a new bridge across the Leith was a waste of money. When the new Vice-Chancellor came in the bridge project was immediately scrapped. So I feel somewhat vindicated by the way he didn't agree with me.

He made a convincing case that the University doesn't hate trees. He also said the ones I'm most alarmed for are expected to be fine. Though it's still not clear to me why. It think that feeling welling up from my bowels is the urge to counter-reply. Barry, old pro that he is, has already deflected this impulse by including the name and phone number of the University Grounds Officer. He knows that there's nothing that a letter-to-the-editor writer fears more than direct interaction with a live human being.

And fortunately, I've been published in more prestigious (though possibly less read) parts of the magazine before, so I don't feel the need to consolidate any new-found fame by writing more letters.

Might be a short feature article in it though.

And of course, all of this paving (and plenty of building) has been at the expense of grassed area. Don't even get me started on that.