Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Irony Upon Ironies

One afternoon last week I was driving along Route 24 and I noticed that there was a long expanse of woods, across from the Morristown Airport. I was very intrigued by this particular spot because I could tell the trees were very old and large, and also very much "in decline," a polite forestry euphemism for "dying." I could tell even from a distance because the branches have little or no "terminal growth" another forestry term for new, young branches at the tips.
So when I got home I looked at a map on the 'tubes to figure out how I could get into this place without having to park on the freeway. It is unusual because with New Jersey's tax code, property owners with large lots get a very significant break for farmland/woodlot assessment, so there aren't many places where big dead trees aren't promptly removed for firewood.
I almost fell off my chair when I saw that this giant property is the original Exxon Campus comprising hundreds of acres. For those who don't realize, Exxon is a chief source of funding for the deliberate, evil misinformation campaign they have launched along with other fossil fuel interests, to confuse people about the science of climate change. They are criminals. So on Sunday, I headed up to invade their territory. On the way, I passed Washington's Headquarters, which is very beautiful, so I stopped to see what the trees looked like there.
Predictably, evidence of poisoning from toxic greenhouse gases abounds.
This enormous stump was probably here with George Washington.
Trees may look okay to the casual observer, from a distance, like this one in front of the cottage.
But the bark is falling off.
It is piling up on the ground beneath.
This collection has in the forefront a newly planted maple that didn't have enough energy to push off its leaves last fall, and so they are still hanging, brown and dried; a tall pine that is too thin on the right; and next to it on the left, a pine that is virtually bare of any needles whatsoever.
Here's a close-up for those who want to be really morbid.

After a bit of cruising around with my GPS I finally located the entrance to the property owned by Exxon and yes, Irony Upon Ironies!
I drove to the back of the property - which is a gigantic corporate park now with huge buildings, roads, and parking lots - to the untended woods along the freeway. You can see how huge many of the trees are, tall above the equipment stored at the back lot.

So what follows are photos I took, just walking through an acre or so of the woods. That's the freeway berm in the rear.
It was just shocking to see the wholesale death of magnificent old trees.
It is just one after the other.
Some places are so tangled with broken branches it was hard to get through.
There is a mix of hardwoods - hickory, oaks, and beech.
More dead trees along the berm.
Here is a sad example.
Sometimes they crack in the middle.
There are damaged branches above and damaged trunks at the base.
Bark is flying off.
There literally isn't one single tree that doesn't have damage to some extent.
It doesn't matter which species, or how old.
Words fail me.
Above is a great contrast of big dead fallen trees with the twisted sapling in the foreground, its trunk split.
How do people work in those buildings without noticing the rumble of gigantic trees crashing?
Or hear the young trees screaming?

It must be painful to have your bark do this.
In very little time, nothing will be left standing in these woods.
Also missing is any kind of understory - the earth beneath the trees is lifeless.
Where is the rest of this tree? Perhaps some logs have been taken from parts of these woods.
Outside of the section left undeveloped, the trees in the groomed landscape are dying just the same.
Each tree in this row along the drive has damage to one degree or another.
It's hard to depict just how massive that cut stump in the foreground is. The diameter is far greater than the tree behind it. This row is in between buildings, not back in the woods.
Perhaps there are so many trees dying so quickly they can't keep up with removing them.
And the recently planted trees that line the roads between buildings are uniformly sickly. The pines are losing needles.
The needles that remain are discolored.
One after the other, it's the same story - thinning, turning brown, and all their energy thrown into cones.
It's the exact same situation for the deciduous, ornamental nursery stock.
Every single trunk has the same sort of splitting and decay. I could have walked a mile and taken pictures of each one, planted about 20 feet apart, with identical damage. But I had had enough.
What a relief to come home and see the sparkly Cold Brook and the fields and hills beyond,
and the sheep peacefully grazing in the last light of the afternoon.

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