20 February 2014

Not so green

Copenhagen is losing so many trees at the moment, at a speed that you wouldn’t believe. Almost 200 healthy big ones are in the process of being cut down to widen a highway, and make more space for cars. Another trick is to squeeze cyclists into protected gardens, effectively rendering them useless. This way a place like the City Of The Elderly (where they moved the cherry trees), becomes a vacant lot for developers. Cutting down even more trees, to flatten a garden that is no longer protected. They will put a nice spin on things of course, using words like “open up” for removing fences and trees that bring shelter from traffic and noise.


Same spot after: 

80 year old lime trees cut down to widen eight lane highway on Tagensvej, and accomodate more cars. 

In the process exposing demented elderly and children to traffic, noise and even more pollution, on a stretch already deemed above the legal limit. Welcome to the world of not making sense.

A "green bike lane" sounds great too, until you realise it is basically a highway through the middle of a garden with demented elderly and children. Planners even have the audacity to suggest that cyclists will dismount, and walk their bikes along the garden bike lane, to show consideration and enjoy nature. As if.

So if you think things are a little quiet in here, this is the reason. I am investigating, bringing things out in the open, informing people and trying to gather support. The tree group Red Byens Træer (Save the City's Trees) I founded last year, is growing steadily, and is now collaborating with the Danish Society for Nature Conservation in Copenhagen. We are in a dialogue with the City of Copenhagen to implement a tree policy, and put a halt to salting roads in the wintertime.

Copenhagen is the European Green Capital 2014, for reasons not related to anything actually green. We have clean water in the harbour, energy efficient measures in place and a lot of us get around by bike. But our trees are being cut down, and our air is toxic from congested traffic. Things are not adding up here.

Red Byens Træer on facebook (in Danish)
Red Byens Træer blog, for those not on facebook (in Danish)


  1. oh Sandra, this breaks my heart. I'm so sorry for your city, and I hope you guys will be heard. Big hugs from not green at all Paris.

    1. Oh no, not your heart too! Phew, you really feel so powerless, once they start clearing everything. In the case of the highway trees, they refused to say how many and exactly which they were removing, and then they cut them down in the dark of night. Like they knew they were in the wrong.

      It turns out, they have deviated from the approved plan, taking completely different trees, far more of them and replanting much less than first agreed. Off by 121 trees, to be exact. And there is no consequence or punishment, just another: oh well. UGH!

      Thank you for the hug. <3

  2. Hej again! It's the same all over. I live in Hvidovre - http://adriftindk.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/its-not-easy-being-a-tree/

    1. I get these updates from so many places, I think we have lost the understanding of nature, and the importance of trees. Even the urban planners, road engineers and architects don't get it. To them trees are obstacles and expensive to maintain. That need to change.

  3. Does the City of Copenhagen have landscape architects/arborists on staff? You would think they would suggest against it! In Toronto, for every tree you cut down for development, you are required to plant a replacement tree, and in some surrounding municipalities, 2 or 3 per tree. If you can't, you must pay upwards of thousands. I'm in landscape architecture, and most of our projects include finding ways to fit replacement trees on a site. This makes me so sad that my favourite city may soon be treeless!

    1. It sounds like Toronto have a tree plan too. I will put that in the tree policy notes right away. Here, at the most they will replace a hundred-year old tree with a single twig form a nursery. But they don't live long because the roots have poor conditions, and once the replacement tree succumbs, it is not always replaced. Word is our City Architect does not care much for trees, and she has done nothing to convince me otherwise.

      The old trees have built up a resistance, and when you cut them down, there is no guarantee a big tree will ever grow there again. Unless we make some serious changes, and make space for them. The fact that you work in landscape architecture and work to find space for trees, just makes me want to hug you. : )

  4. It really hurts to see the pictures of an old, healty tree being cut down. Really, I cannot stand it. Even a replacement could not compensate it. It takes a lot of time, and the environmental conditions are not the same as 80 or 100 years ago.

    It's similar here. I just discovered that there is a regulation (not published, but internally) saying that at major streets outside towns and villages there must be kept 7.5 m distance from the right/left edge of the street to the next tree. For safety reasons, to avoid car accidents. And they started cutting down trees during this winter and it looks like on Mars.

    You are so helpless, it's too late when you see a tree cut. Sometimes I place a sheet of paper saying that cutting old trees is a kind of murder (a citation of Kurt Tucholsky). I hope that others may think the same.


    1. You are SO right! Trees planted today, are not likely to survive, at least in the urban environment. And, big healthy trees clean the air and absorb particles and noise. The re-planting excuse is a smoke screen, and it frustrates me to no end that people just accept hollow promises.

      Also road trees help keeping the speed limit low, the less obstacles in the way, the faster cars go. Which is why cutting down trees to widen a highway, running through an already congested city is insane.

      I got an email from a man in Malmö, saying the city may have a tree plan, but they are not sticking to it. He started documenting the state the trees are in, and documenting the felling. I suggested he started a sister group to Save The Urban Trees. And you could too. It would be so cool if people in cities all over the world, stood up to the greedy developers and sloppy urban planning and demanded protection for the trees.

      All you need is to make a facebook page, and tell people to report abuse. How about it? You could make one for your city. Just start taking pictures of the trees they cut down, and one day you will be able to stop them. It is the best feeling in the world, to save a tree. <3


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