Thursday, June 09, 2005

Clear-cutting our Landscapes

A couple of mornings ago, I awoke and let the dogs out for their morning constitutional. I immediately heard an unfamiliar sound, one that should strike terror in every creature on this earth. It was being emitted by the ever more refined and fast moving machinery that clear-cuts our landscapes for the building of new communities. I didn’t know this at the time, but had an inkling that the clearing of the hill behind my house had begun. I decided that I would check the outlet to the local street to verify my suspicions.

By the time I had eaten breakfast, taken my meds, showered and dressed to go for afternoon errands it was about 1 PM. I drove over to the site of the clearing to find that the machinery had already managed to wipe clean the earth from the street to a point about 400 feet back and the width of three-to-four average middle-class homes.

I went on to complete my errands, expecting to come home and find that the view from my back deck would be of the orange pate of hill that once had been covered in dense underbrush and large trees. I was surprised when I returned home to find the noise having increased in volume to a high screech and yet, to see that the large trees between my house and the present location of bare ground were still intact. As I continued to look at the woods, I noticed that at the top of the canopy I seemed to see a bit more blue sky. Then I saw a treetop suddenly jerk as if its base had been grabbed by something and the tree gave several violent heaves from one side to the other before it simply disappeared behind the curtain of the remaining forest.

At about 3:30 PM, the noise stopped and the advance of the herbivorous carnage stopped as well. At quitting time, I still had a wall of trees between me and the exposed orange clay, but I think that the road still has to be cleared from the back of that new subdivision to connect it to the others homes hidden in the woods southwest of me. I am awaiting the return of the logging equipment before I will know just how much new exposure to the sun my home will have.

I moved into this house two years ago. When I bought the property, I didn’t know that this subdivision was planned. The people who sold me my home never mentioned it and I never thought to ask. I learned after settling in that the whole neighborhood had been involved in protests to prevent the development behind us.

The afternoon of the clearing of a good eight to ten acres of their habitat, I saw a herd of deer standing in the street in front of my home at four in the afternoon. They were already having difficulty finding food among the few trees on that land behind my home and now they have had to come live on our lawns.

It seems to me that North Carolina is willing to sell its soul and its natural beauty in order to provide thousands of brand new homes for us middle-class Americans who drive the housing market. We should demand of our government that we stop the practice of clear-cutting and that developers be forced to work with wildlife management to relocate animals displaced by development. We should also change the disclosure statement of real estate sales to indicate any known development that will change the nature, not just the monetary value, of your home.

In the meantime, our natural beauty is being destroyed and replaced by streets, houses and other impermeable surfaces that increase the heating of the environment and decrease the ability of the land to absorb water. We should not be surprised when hurricanes like Floyd with its devastating floods become more of a norm than an extreme.

When I moved to the Triangle of North Carolina in 1977, I found great solace in the natural beauty of this area. That was a little more than 25 years ago. Will there be forests left within our state in another 25 years?



Blogger melinama said...

When I first moved to the Triangle I lived behind South Square on "Lyckan Parkway," what a joke - it was a dirt road that snaked behind the miniature golf course. There was a meadow across the street, and a pond where we caught tadpoles. Where Westgate is, and the whole Kmart strip, and Martin Luther King highway, and the Wynnsong - all woods. I never lived in a place before where, when development begins, hundreds and hundreds of acres of woodland are blasted away in one fell swoop.

6/12/2005 05:08:00 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Ron, thank you for writing about this. We've seen way too much of this devastation lately in "Green"sboro. I often wonder why we have an urban forester, a position that got a lot of press when she was hired. There doesn't seem to be any teeth in laws to protect trees. I think it's because we elect too many developers to political positions.

I look forward to reading some of your other writing.

6/13/2005 11:07:00 AM  

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