December 04, 2007

Berkeley's Peter Pan protest

With their heads in the treesIn the case of the "People's Perch"--as some are calling the yearlong Berzerkley tree-squat--never before has so much been done for a cause so trivial. The tree-sitters argue that in fighting to save some 100 trees, they are protecting "a healthy, functioning native oak ecosystem." One problem: The stadium property is not pristine wilderness. Most of those trees owe their existence to UC landscaping.

"People call us crazy monkey hippies," one tree-squatter told The Chronicle's Carolyn Jones, "but this is the greatest thing I've ever done." Except the tree squatters have achieved nothing. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued an injunction that barred the university from felling the trees. The squatters could have walked away 11 months ago, and the trees would still be standing. It's lawyers, not aging adolescents swinging in the trees, who have kept UC chain saws at bay.
More thoughts on the protest:Like young children, the tree-sitters have no sense of proportion. They can leave at any time. They eat and mix with others as they will. The worst they have to fear is five days in jail. Yet they equate their plight with that of Gitmo inmates?

It's a Peter Pan protest. Activists go by kiddie names--Running Wolf, Redwood Mary, Midnight Matt. And they have a child's sense of what is important. In a world darkened by genocide, starvation and ignorance, they see fit to champion the cause of landscaped trees, which, by the way, UC has offered to replace on a 3-to-1 basis.
On the other hand:

UC Berkeley attacks tree sitters despite court rulings
The tree sitters are still up in five oaks and a redwood in a grove of over three dozen old trees where UCB wants to build a parking lot and sports facility. In principle the scheme is bad enough; the wrong thing to do for the sake of educational integrity. But the University's legal trouble is that the City of Berkeley protects such trees by law. UCB administrators and their police force believe they are above both city law and the feelings and rights of the community's neighbors who love the rare native trees.

This small grove is one of the last remnant ecosystems of California Live Oaks in the urbanized San Francisco Bay Area, and the University wants to destroy the grove for "progress" in its athletics program. Some neighbors and students (and a few imported Humboldt forest defenders) are saying "No!"--with mounting success.
The Native angle:

University Fences In a Berkeley Protest, and a New One ArisesThe highest platform belongs to Mr. Running Wolf. A regular presence at the city’s many marches and protests, he says he, too, is impressed by the stadium opposition.

“This is remarkably unified,” he said. “You’ve got the affluent people living in the hills, who normally wouldn’t mix with the food-not-bombs people or the anarchists or the Native Americans or the environmentalists. It’s pretty wild.”
Comment:  Whether this protest is worth the time and energy devoted to it is a good question. The tree-sitters could be protesting the war on Iraq or Native stereotyping instead. But it's useful to tell major institutions they have to follow the law, especially when it comes to protecting the environment.

P.S. Running Wolf is a Native name, not a "kiddie" name. Whether it's a genuine Native name is another question.

As you may recall, I reported on Running Wolf and his activities a few weeks ago.

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