2012-01-12 "THE LATEST BIG BROTHER DIATRIBE" letter by Peter Mennen of St. Helena to the editor of the "St. Helena Star"
Editor: I sighed and groaned as I read through Stuart Smith’s latest diatribe against any new tyrannical Big Brother edict that threatens to remove his God-given right to do whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants to, and damn the consequences for the rest of us. This time the objects of his wrath are the town’s few remaining, utterly irreplaceable heritage oaks and other critically important native trees, some of which have been growing here since the Revolutionary War and are, to many local and tourist eyes, St. Helena’s most beautiful and memorable landmarks (“Tree decisions should be left up to owners,” Jan. 5).
Their leaves also happen to be — though Stuart doesn’t know this — the essential food source for the larvae of a multitude of pollinator species (well over 500 on the oaks alone) that local farmers and gardeners depend upon to fertilize most fruit and vegetables. As a further downside, if we lose our native maples, redwoods and grand old oaks, the town’s bug-eating native songbirds and the small animals and deer that survive on each fall’s acorns will starve and disappear. Oak trees in particular have inestimable value, far beyond their beauty; they are one of the keystone species that hold the world together, and if people like Stuart Smith continue to believe we don’t depend on nature, some day soon when the pollinators are gone, they’ll have nothing left to chew on but the shreds of their once-gigantic egos.
“Poor Stu,” I said to myself as I read his letter. “Still stuck in the ’60s” … the 1860s, that is, when a big chunk of American society believed the words “private property” extended to everything around them. People like Stuart begrudge every inch of control they’ve lost since then, when the sad truth is: If only they could have kept their selfish appetites in check, the world would still be a beautiful place, and the rest of us wouldn’t be put in the unpleasant position of having to help them do what’s right.
Indiscriminately despoiling the Earth and ruining life for the rest of Creation in the name of “Liberty!” is not what America’s founding fathers had in mind. So here’s my wish for the New Year: That Stu Smith and his spoiled-baby buddies will finally grow up and cease being a vexatious problem their frustrated neighbors are tired of dealing with.