We have lost our neighbor's lovely eucalyptus trees which filled the view through the french doors from our bedroom in Laguna Beach. We know that, historically, as non-natives, these trees are invaders in the Southern California landscape, but they settled here more than a century ago and they have made themselves at home in this part of the world. Indeed, they are a familiar feature in many of the plein air paintings made hereabouts in the early 20th century, and their elegance is hard to resist. There is a quality to the way in which their leaves and branches respond with a lift and a sway in the slightest breeze that brings a certain serenity to the natural environment, and these ones will be missed.
There is something of a dispute about the eucalyptus currently, here in Laguna. In neighboring Newport Beach, just recently, one fell and crushed the occupant of a passing car; in consequence (revenge? an obsessive desire for safety?) that city mercilessly culled a hundred of them. Here in our little town--though whether in sympathy, I don't know--more have been condemned, to the outrage of some of our fellow citizens who enjoy their shade and object to the potential loss of perching space for birds. (They are not good nesting trees--though the herons, around Silver Lake in Los Angeles, seem to like them for that purpose.) The controversy here in Laguna, I believe, remains as yet unsettled.
Our neighbor's trees, like many in this community, have been sacrificed to another neighbor's claim to an ocean view. It's sad to see trees hacked down, whatever the reason. The planet is losing too many of them already to disease and human expansionism. We ourselves have two beauties up in Los Angeles, eucalyptus both, which were infected by a disease that left their leaves shriveling up and coated with a nasty gummy substance. Falling off in masses, they left an awful mess on the deck outside our living room, hard to sweep up because of that gum. We recently had the trunks treated with medicinal plugs, and they seem now to be on the road to recovery. We still worry about them, though. They are of that species of eucalyptus that grows very tall and slender, and they have shot up alarmingly in the past couple of years. Thus far, we have resisted expert advice to have them cut down; and will continue to do so, unless and until they seem to pose an imminent threat. Self protection sounds like a justifiable defense against arboricide.
I wonder, though, do trees count as "living beings"? In any event, we would certainly wish to "do no harm" to the environment.