Trees Are Not Random Killers

I came across this little article in the New York Times a week ago.

I had several reactions. My first of course was sympathy for the victims whose lives had been cut short by the falling trees, and for their families whose lives had been forever changed by these random events.

Next, I was a bit perplexed that the Times would even bother to cover such a thing. While 12 folks killed by trees in a 2 month period might seem like a large number, as I pointed out in a tweet, how many folks had been killed by guns in that same period–or by any other means of violence?

Or for that matter, how many folks had been the victims of auto accidents? Of drunk drivers? Of domestic violence?

New York City is a city of 8 million folks. 12 people is not even enough to fit on the tip of a pin, statistically speaking (although please understand that I do not in any way wish to diminish the significance of their lives).

And while it could be argued that better tree maintenance might have prevented some of these accidents, so too could it be argued that many, if not all of the above types of deaths that I have named above could have been avoided.

The “randomness” of death was demonstrated again last week when a promising young woman’s career and life was cut short after she fell to her death after her balcony railing gave way. Again, the Times covered that story, but in a much more measured way (at least in my opinion).

Unfortunately being out of doors, where ever we are, involves risk. For some, it’s as simple as a bee sting allergy. For others, it’s like a lightning bolt out of the blue, like a falling tree.

Oh, and yes, I didn’t mention weather. What about lightning? Talk about a “random” killer. Or maybe not.

2 thoughts on “Trees Are Not Random Killers

  1. michele August 13, 2013 / 3:32 am

    There is a difference,I think, in people’s perceptions of these terrible incidents. Guns & cars & planes & even people can be & are dangerous. Trees are what you sit under for shade, coolness, serenity with your lover, children or friends. There is no expectation of danger, so it is shocking in a way the others are not. It is, actually, a testimony to the trust & love we have for trees. It is a failure of how we perceive them.

  2. gardendaze August 13, 2013 / 9:19 am

    Ah, excellent point. And there is so much written about how nature can actually help one achieve serenity so your point about the failure of perception is excellent.

    I think as one who grew up on a barrier island (one just about destroyed by Sandy) and who has a healthy respect for the ocean, I always associate “nature” with some duality. There’s beauty, yes, but there’s also that ability for it to turn deadly at any time.

    Same thing when I’m hiking or biking or snowshoeing in backcountry Colorado. I risk avalanche (if I’m not aware), rock slides–you see my point. “Nature” is never quite as safe as we would like to think, sadly. Those with bee sting allergies know it best, perhaps.

    But I think what surprised me the most about the story was that in a city of 8 million folks, the Times was remarking about 12 deaths. As I said, they are never meaningless and it is never unremarkable when a life is cut short.

    But it is almost as if they are inciting the survivors to sue the city or something.

    It just struck me as odd.

    And obviously the deaths struck the folks at the Times as odd as well, because they chose to write about it.

    Thanks for your very insightful comments.


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