conservation lifestyle

Why nature connection matters

When I left my house yesterday morning, there was a fine young Douglas Fir tree outside my house. Though it sits just across the fence on the neighbour’s side, it grows over our driveway and gives our bit of the terrace a sense of place. For the 35 odd years it has been there it has broken up the sight-lines down the street. It shades the house in summer and protects it from the wind in winter.

Like all trees, it creates oxygen and cleans the air. It’s a home to birds, most recently a pair of nesting pigeons. I’ve been watching them in the nest over the past few weeks, about ten feet from the bedroom window. There was a howling gale last week and I watched the tree swaying, convinced the nest was going to be blown to bits, but it barely budged.

But when I came back from work in the evening, the tree looked like this:


Our neighbour had it cut down because it was dropping pine needles on her car.

This, in a nutshell, is why nature connection is so important. When we live indoor, neatly packaging, out of season lives, we have no awareness of nature. We only engage with the natural world when it inconveniences us – when it rains, when there’s a wasp at our picnic, or when mould grows on the cheese we forgot at the back of the fridge.

We have no sense that we are part of something larger, part of a system that included the tree and the birds and the insects as well as ourselves. If our eyes aren’t open to what is around us, we’ll never spot the role that tree is playing – if it really had to go, couldn’t it have waited until the little pigeons hatched and fledged? If we don’t notice the birds nests, we’ll never think of the invisible benefits that the tree brought, the oxygen, its role in shaping the wind down the street. All we see is the negatives, the minor hassle of having to sweep up from time to time.

If we can’t see the importance of what is right in front of us, how will we ever care about climate change, or deforestation, or biodiversity loss on the other side of the world?


  1. Sorry you lost the pleasure of your neighbour’s tree. I hope it will not be an all-over-concrete front garden next.

    You have to wonder what is the matter with people.

  2. Sad. My own father is such a person. The orderly German type, and all too often nature simply is too “unordentlich” – untidy – and has to be replaced by something more clean and straight that can be easily maintained. It’s a terrible and (self-) destructive soulless attitude seeing nature as separate from us, as a burden only. Simply wrong.

  3. Report the matter to your Council at once. As there was a nesting bird in it a criminal offence has been committed.

  4. Well spoken Jeremy. I hope you can plant a quick growing siver birch, or other, in your own front garden. The giant corporations have successfully conditoned many to being close to obsession about cleanliness. A well known comedian said a few years ago that nature is ‘dirty and smelley’! Grey Owl said ‘we must remember that nature does not belong to us, we belong to it’.

  5. Really sorry that the tree has gone. What a pity your neighbour didn’t discuss her plans with you first. What about planting a beech hedge along the boundary between you? It’s a bit slow growing, but birds and insects love it, and the changes in colours from spring to summer to autumn are beautiful.

  6. Thank you all for your condolences. My instincts are to immediately plant something else just on my side of the fence, but it would take 30 years to get back to what we had. I will have to think of what will look best. A hedge might be a good way to go.

    1. Jeremy, our 30 different native species grew from 1ft-3ft to 20-30ft in less than 12 years, in Wales, on pretty poor, wet, shallow soil – I’m sure yours will do even better! Silver birch are good for wildlife next to oaks, but, oaks of course, are slow growing and ultimately usually too big! Trees over hedges any day (or both of course) 🙂 Remember hedges need regular cutting – hard work!

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