Network Rail’s scorched earth polic7

Before…….

After….

Before……

After…..
Before…..

After….

(Note: Some of these images have been taken from Google, but I have decided to bypass their copyright law on moral grounds, seen as they document every street in Britain, and every by-passer present without our consent.)

Another one of nature’s positive reclamations of relatively lifeless British soil has been hacked back again. I’m always reluctant to criticise. The expected reaction to this criticism of Network Rail’s tree-slashing frenzy, is a common type I can expect for many other criticisms. “It’s only a few trees – what’s the big deal?” could easily be “it’s only a few poxy chickens, what’s the big deal” or “it’s only a bit of fun, what’s the big deal?” Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions beforehand, but I just want to state that these ‘little’ things matter a lot!
My arguments always attempt a global viewpoint – the big picture – in so far as what is only a small trend happening in one place, isn’t so when it is happening everywhere. And the criticism of this tree slashing isn’t sourced in some unrealistic idealism, as there wasn’t a realistic reasoning for he chopping down of most of these trees as most were too far from the lines to pose any threat of interference with the railway (observation alone can assert that the removal of a few branches and nothing else was all that was needed).

Rail travel in the 21st century promotes itself as a greener alternative to car travel, and there’s no doubt about this to anyone who’s stopped and observed the blatant insanity of people moving around in their own metal boxes (the car would have been a miracle of modern technology to those who saw the first ones, I doubt they could have imagined that 21st century life would make it all but impossible to survive without one). However, train travel doesn’t feel so green now (not at least in on the Hallam rail line) as it travels up and down a newly-made barren landscape. It suddenly looks very much like the old photographs of the trains as they passed through the then South Yorkshire landscape heavily scarred by the coal mining industry. And although the social landscape has been greatly wounded by the inhumane way in which industry that formed an entire way of life was desecrated, the natural landscape probably hasn’t been this green and lush in the past 200 years.

Of course, the way an environment looks isn’t taken into consideration much under a system that is so sick that business and business only is what matters – ultimate efficiency on the two-carriage-sardine-tin for profit maximization is what matters, thus trees are seen as a nuisance, because they do inefficient things like drop leaves from time to time. Trees are often seen as a nuisance in many a walks of life for this one reason. Why don’t we chop ’em all down and have done with it?

(Approaching Elsecar train station)

Network Rail’s scorched earth policy of tree slashing ironically seems to have been implemented at the same time as the current government’s scorched earth policy of welfare slashing. Perhaps I say this because as the train pulled in to the station today, from around the corner of the now empty slopes, it reminded me of my childhood in the 1980s, and the landscape during that decade seemed barren and black and white as if it symbolised what I now know to be last period of welfare slashing. Likewise, judging by the size of the trunks of these felled trees, they must have been saplings when I was that young. The ‘greening over’ seemed to start in the 1990’s and now it’s gone again as we take another step backwards, and in this way the barren area seems to speak of many steps taken in the wrong direction.

The charity The Woodland Trust has a new interactive project (http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/my-view/Pages/myview.aspx) which encourages the public to partake in a Photoshop experiment to populate photographs of their local area with trees. I, independently, did the same with my photographs of my local area, about 4 years ago (http://www.johnledgerartist.com/page6.htm), with the same conviction that when you add trees to a urban/suburban landscape they instantly make the place look a damn sight nicer, not to mention all the benefits its actualisation would bring. Always struggling to know how to reach a collective, I just turned to individually greening over small patches of land near where I live with acorns and self-seeded birch which I have collected during the past few years. I look forward to seeing the trees grow tall. However, it sometimes seems such a futile effort when a company can destroy more trees in a few hours than I can plant during a year.John Ruskin wasn’t make a light sentimental gesture when he said “there is no wealth but life”, but what’s the point of a ‘national treasure’ if nobody listens to them? Indeed, what little I know of him I know he had deep reservations about what the fast pace of train travel did to this appreciation. However, he was writing this from the 19th century, and the capitalist machine has advanced so much since then that rail travel is probably one of the best ways of traveling for taking appreciation in what is all around us. People even pay to go on certain train trips just for the scenic views.
But despite of this, rail travel in Britain is no longer a service to the people and is run by private companies all trying to make a profit. Thus, it seems not to care whether it transports passengers through barren wastelands. Darton train station is by no measure scenic, but it is a damn sight more so when silver birches and oaks drape the slopes and birds and other animals sound over the nearby drone of the M1 motorway.

To argue against the whole of the ever-more Neoliberal system Britain is being plunged into: if beauty and well-being are second to profitability, what do we bother living for? The felling of a few trees isn’t just a few when it is part of trend which states that nothing should stand in the way of profit. Green issues, due to their association with the softer things in life, are still not taken as seriously as they should be as a left-wing and left-wing only policy, against capitalism’s drive towards sucking the life from the world. And the way in which the qualities of an environment are stripped away at the same time as our social securities are being stripped away should really double up the anger and rejection of this system

About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

One response to “Network Rail’s scorched earth polic7”

  1. Tina says :

    i was devastated when i saw that in darton, could not believe how they got away with that 😦

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