Stockholmers gather to save a tree - Monocolumn | Monocle


A daily bulletin of news & opinion

21 November 2011

This year, the world has seen its fair share of protests. There’s been the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Greek demonstrations and above all, the Arab Spring. In Stockholm, citizens have also been demonstrating. In this case, to save an old oak tree.

It’s not a huge movement, and until now, it hasn’t won much international attention. But a small group of passionate Stockholmers have stubbornly been camping beside this old tree, trying to stop the city from cutting it down. And, as the tree is situated just outside the TV building, the national broadcasted SVT is only steps away from delivering another report about the tree’s fate. It all started a month ago, and by now, everyone has an opinion about the suddenly famous TV-oak.

Why such an upheaval about a tree? The oak is said to be one of Stockholm’s oldest. It has stood here since Viking times, watching kings come and go, wars being lost and won, horses being replaced by cars. But now it’s become sick; its roots are rotten, and it’s simply dangerous. It’s as high as an apartment building, and it may fall down on the good-hearted demonstrators at any moment.

But that doesn’t stop people from caring. A few weeks ago, a well-known film director wrote to one of the city’s main newspapers. He suggested supporting the tree with metal structures and making it a tourist attraction. Others are sure that the entire thing is a conspiracy. Last week, a taxi driver told me that he doesn’t believe the tree is in such a bad state as the experts claim. All the city really wants to do is make way for a new tram line, he said. On television, a woman, almost in tears, said that the tree is very important. “It’s more important than the church.”

All this talk about trees makes me feel quite good about living in Stockholm. If we have time to get this agitated about a tree, it means that the basic things in the city are in a pretty good state. It also shows that people still care about their surroundings.

After yet another inspection, the public traffic authority has insisted it will cut down the old oak tree. This time, the battle is lost it seems. For the tree, however, a new life awaits: it will now become a climbing frame for the monkeys at Skansen zoo.


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