New Year’s Resolution: Re-sensitize ourselves to the killing of trees

By William Hicks

Massacre on Via Marina: One of 18 mature trees cut down last week  Photo by William Hicks

Massacre on Via Marina: One of 18 mature trees cut down last week
Photo by William Hicks

To borrow a phrase from the late President Ronald Reagan, “Well, there he goes again!”

Last December, L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe allowed workers to cut down 650 trees at Oxford Basin Lagoon in order to dredge for flood control purposes and ultimately create a park.

This December they’re cutting down 18 more — many of them beautiful mature coral trees (the “official tree” of L.A.) along Via Marina in what has become Marina del “Razed.”

Perhaps Mr. Knabe will implement an annual tree cutting ceremony to celebrate the holidays.

The L.A. County Dept. of Beaches and Harbors announced ahead of time that the 18 trees cut down last week were dead, dying or diseased.

There are International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) evaluation forms for 11 of the trees, but not the other seven ruled dead. Each was completed by JTL Consultants, a government contractor that is run by certified arborists.

To be fair, the ISA reports for the seven coral trees, two Italian stone pines and two Monterey pines do list various concerns about the conditions of the trees and take guesses at how risky those conditions could be.

One coral tree at Yvonne B. Burke Park, for example, is said to be “in decline with sparse foliage and cracked branches.” Another coral tree along Via Marina is said to have signs of wetwood decay. Other trees were basically just crowding out or being crowded out by other trees.

Perhaps that’s why Ballona Institute board president Roy van de Hoek tells me the cross-sections of recently cut trees that he saw showed no evidence of disease. So as to any diseases, I can’t tell you at this point what they are or whether other trees might be at risk.

As for mitigation options, two words keep showing up on the forms: “remove tree.” No other options. No notes about what could be done to save the trees. Just a “Take’m down, boys,” essentially.

Perhaps we need a Department of Beaches & “Arbors,” because after all that’s happened the past couple years I don’t think that B&H really gives a splinter about trying to save trees.

But this isn’t just about trees. In a broader sense, this is about a mindset of killing. About a desensitization to killing.

Ever since we were children, dead things just showed up on our plates — vegetables, fish, chicken, hamburgers, bacon, you name it — with no indication of where they came from or who killed them.

In the old days, if you didn’t kill it yourself then you didn’t eat, and you were the dead one. Nowadays, as long as you have enough money to go to the store and buy food you can eat whatever you want.

As we grew up, we noticed creepy things crawling around: some had six legs, eight legs, hundreds of legs, or no legs at all. Because they were small and weird-looking, it was acceptable to just squash them.

In school we learned about wars waged by evil people who needed killin’. Kill or be killed. Early on it was hand-to-hand combat, when men had to look into the eyes of whom they were killing. There was some chivalry to killing, if you can call it that.

But apparently the ends justified the means, because spears, bows and arrows, catapults, gunpowder, guns and cannons were invented. Fighting in rows was replaced by trench warfare and guerilla warfare. Now we have landmines, missiles, bombs and enough nukes to kill all of us several times over.

After the Cold War ended and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) wasn’t as much of a threat, it was replaced with terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

And now we have drones controlled by people behind desks, who can grab a cup of coffee after killing somebody — people likely raised on “killing people” video games. If my psychology degree taught me anything, it’s that this isn’t healthy.

So with all of this killing going on, what’s a few trees?

After all, trees are just a commodity, right? Ever since the dawn of man they were just used for burning and keeping warm. Then they were used for creating tools, furniture, homes and paper.

The difference is we’re not living in the Stone Age. There are more than 7 billion people living on the planet.

My wife and I recently attended an event in Brentwood in which Congressman Ted Lieu said, “Trees are the best way to remove carbon dioxide from the air.”

Not to mention they create oxygen and catch rainfall.

Trees are vital to our survival, which is why so many people get upset when one gets cut down, let alone 18 or 650 of them. These people aren’t just “tree huggers.” These people care about life on Earth.

As we begin the New Year, I propose that we become reacquainted with the value of trees and re-sensitized to the killing of trees. That way more of
us will react when there are plans to cut them down.

William Hicks lives in Marina del Rey. Reach him at

Editor’s Note (Jan. 7): The story has been changed to remove information that had been incorrectly cited as a direct quote.