A few months back I took a design course at Central Saint Martins in London. One of the activities we had to do was go out into the city and interact with our environment. Just across from the school was a healthy tree that was scheduled to be cut down. It had a plastic sign attached to it saying “Unfortuantely it has become necessary to remove this tree”. Short and simple.

I thought a lot about that tree that day. I wondered why they were cutting it down, whether anyone had ever noticed it, if anyone would notice it gone. It had been on that street corner for probably 30 years, had seen many people walk, bike and drive by. So I decided to do my bit to try to give the tree a bit more attention in its final days by posting a sign on it. The sign said “Tree, also known as Bob, 1978-2010, Was probably not noticed before today but will be greatly missed. Will reappear as an Ikea table in its second life, available in stores 2011. RIP” I even considered writing a short obituary for it and sending it into the local newspaper.

Just down the street from where I live, the city council wants to cut down three magnificent 100+ year old trees (also healthy) from a line of trees that border a local park, and which form a really important part of our community. Apparently the roots are causing structural damage to one house on the other side of the street, and it is cheaper to cut the trees down then fix the damage. How could you ever put a value on a 100+ year old tree and how could it ever be the cheaper solution to cut down three of them? A fully mature 100 year old tree is something exceptional and should not be cut down lightly.

Melbourne City Council in Australia has recently put a value on the city’s trees, something that other cities around the world have been doing as well. The total value of the trees in Melbourne came up to the grand sum of 400million euros! The idea is that if you cut down a tree that is valued at 50,000 euros you need to commit to planting new ones of the same value.

I think it’s great that cities are putting a value on their trees, it shows their importance. But at the same time can you really just say that if you want to cut down the tree you can buy it for a certain amount of money? Who does that tree really belong to? Is that really a fair trade?

Putting a value on nature is an interesting and worthwhile exercise, but in my mind could never represent the full value of that tree. If something is more than 100 years old it has earned the right to stay right where it is for another 100 years if it wants to.