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An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney - our wellbeing and the Happy Man Tree

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney Council @philipglanville and @hackneycouncil

You defend the decision to fell the Happy Man Tree on the basis of the environmental mitigation that you will put in place if it is removed. The soundness of this argument is highly questionable. How can a 150 year old specific and mature ecosystem actually be replaced? Its loss will be environmentally profound and permanent. Due to global heating and the climate crisis, it is unlikely that a Plane tree of this stature will be able to develop and mature in the future.

But actually there will be another impact that is equally, if not even more, profound than the loss to the local ecosystems, air and planet if the Happy Man Tree is destroyed.

It is the impact on the wellbeing of people living around the Happy Man Tree.

Seeing the natural beauty of trees, shrubs, plants and other wildlife as you go about your daily life has a positive impact on how you are feeling – your mood, your blood pressure, the degree to which you feel positive and calm. The Happy Man Tree helps local people to feel ok day in day out.

Not only that, the Happy Man Tree is a local landmark for the community.

A multitude of stories about the Happy Man Tree have been told over the weeks. People have recalled how they played marbles in the shade of the tree as children; and how the Happy Man Tree was an ever present feature of the walk to school with their now grown up sons. Another member of the community sits regularly at the roots of the Happy Man Tree as part of his daily routine – he is afraid that if it is cut down he will not recognise anything from his childhood; a visually impaired man, uses the shade of the Happy Man Tree’s canopy to help him to navigate.

The Happy Man Tree serves as a reference point and connects generations who have lived on the Woodberry Down estate over time. It acts as an anchor to the past for people who have lived on the estate for decades and for whom reminiscence of times gone by is an important part of their present.

The Happy Man Tree connects the local to the global, for those who have settled in Hackney but originate from faraway lands where trees are appreciated, revered and celebrated. There will also be a lasting emotional impact on the community if the tree is felled. A huge Happy Man Tree void will be left starkly on the pavement.

For those many thousands of people who cherish the Happy Man Tree, this void will give them not just a sense of loss but will be a constant reminder of the oppression and silencing that they experienced when their local council bent to the will of corporate might and profit-making, and chose to ignore what local people wanted and needed – to save the Happy Man Tree.

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