Berkeley Protesters Get Naked to Save Eucalyptus Trees

Protesters at UC Berkeley eucalyptus grove disrobed in protest of plan to remove thousands of the trees from area of the East Bay Hills.

Protesters at UC Berkeley eucalyptus grove disrobed in protest of plan to remove thousands of the trees from area of the East Bay Hills. (Ted Friedman/Berkeleyside)

An estimated 50 to 75 people took part in a protest Saturday at a eucalyptus grove on the UC Berkeley campus, many of them stripping naked in doing so, to make clear their opposition to a proposed FEMA-funded tree-clearing program in the East Bay hills.

The event was orchestrated by the Tree Spirit Project, whose mission is “to raise awareness of the critical role trees play in our lives, both globally and personally.” Jack Gescheidt, the West Marin resident who founded the project, does this partly by taking fine-art photographs of people, often naked, communing with trees and nature.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency in March allocated $5.7 million to the California Office of Emergency Services to remove eucalyptus trees as part of fire hazard abatement in several parts of the hills — including Claremont Canyon and other areas near the scene of the devastating 1991 wildfire that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes. The funds will be distributed to UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Parks District.

Jack Gescheidt and his Tree Spirit Project team address a group of volunteers at UC Berkeley on Saturday.
Jack Gescheidt and his Tree Spirit Project team address a group of volunteers at UC Berkeley on Saturday. (Ted Friedman/Berkeleyside)

The Tree Spirit Project has joined other campaigners who oppose what they say is unnecessary and harmful “clear-cutting.” The Hills Conservation Network group is suing FEMA in federal court. It says the clearing of trees will increase rather than decrease fire danger by turning fire-resistant living trees into dead wood left onsite. It is also protesting the potential use of the herbicide glyphosate, commercially known as Round Up, on the remaining tree stumps after the clearing.

However, another group of hills residents opposes the FEMA decision for the opposite reason: they say the fire mitigation plan doesn’t go far enough. The Claremont Canyon Conservancy supports complete eradication. Jon Kaufman, stewardship coordinator of the 500-strong group, said earlier this year: “The problem today is eucalyptuses crowd out native trees, leaving a dense eucalyptus forest with oaks and bays underneath, starved for sunlight.”

On Saturday, at around 10 a.m., Gescheidt came to the eucalyptus grove near Cal’s western entrance with a six-man crew, according to Ted Friedman who took the photographs published here. Gescheidt gave a “stirring talk” defending the eucalyptus trees, which he said have been wrongly identified as a fire risk. He then directed the volunteers who had shown up in a dress rehearsal as they posed artfully, fully clothed, against the large trees. Then many of the volunteers stripped off and resumed their poses for photographs to be taken. The shoot took about two hours, Friedman said.

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  • Bev Jo

    The FEMA plan is only about money and will CAUSE fires, which always start in grasslands. Killing half a million healthy trees will leave our parks more flammable, desolate, ruined…and then the landslides will come. Those trees precipitate inches of water from fog. Our native trees are dying from SOD.

    Most people have no idea that our parks are almost completely non-native trees, and all will be killed, including plums, pines, cypress, etc. But not the non-native fruit and other trees, vegetable gardens, etc. in the fanatical nativists’ own yards.

    The carcinogenic poison will affect everyone who uses the parks and will wash into the bay from the creeks. Why not just donate to Monsanto directly? Glyphosate is already in everyone’s bodies.

    Millions of animals will die.

    Nothing needs to be done to the parks, UC, etc. If non-natives are to be eliminated, start with the humans.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com

    http://www.saveeastbayhills.or

    http://milliontrees.me/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/savet

    According to FEMA, the federal agency funding this proposal, the goal is
    to eliminate forests so that the land can be transformed into “grassland with
    islands of shrubs.”

  • PenelopeAnne

    Maybe this should read, “Aging hippies who can still afford to live in the Bay Area find yet one more excuse to parade around butt naked. Some people never grow up.”

  • glorifing

    Well I am all for saving trees… however, something to think about. Eucalyptus trees are not native to California. They do present fire hazards especially in this dry climate, and when storms do present themselves, eucalyptus trees are more prone to topple over and destroy. Another issue, WHY is a small child apart of this event??? That is WRONG. Adults can do as they wish; however, leave children out of activist events.. especially when they are nude events.. SMH!

  • christina

    Pretty shocked at the editorial choice to use a photo that appears to include a naked child.

  • Mike Vandeman

    What a misleading demonstration! Besides contributing to the delinquency of a minor, I doubt that the Eucalyptus Grove is included in the tree removal plan. But removing non-natives (including humans) from wildlife habitat is a good idea. It is a shame that concern for our native wildlife is so scarce. That ignorance is behind most of the harm that humans are doing to the Earth. The Golden Rule was a good idea, but it needs to be extended to include other species….

    • I don’t see any “delinquency” happening here.

      • Mike Vandeman

        Isn’t it against the law to be naked in public?

        • Depends on where you are, and the purpose of your nudity. The First Amendment (freedom of expression) grants some latitude.

          • Mike Vandeman

            Don’t be so coy. Obviously, I asked about this demonstration. Is it legal or not?

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Actually its illegal to photograph a minor using a cell phone and then share the photo, so why isn’t it illegal to show the above photo with a child in the photo? Because it’s not frontal nudity?

        • It is not illegal to photograph a minor using a cell phone and then share the photo. Parents do it all the time!
          It is illegal to publish child pornography, where the photos have erotic intent. No erotic intent here.

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            Our attorney told us the law here in California states possession of and distribution of nude photos of any minor is a serious criminal offense.

          • Your attorney is mistaken. If that were the case, thousands of parents would be criminals. Please post a copy of, or a link to, the law.

  • Diane Duus

    Why is there a CHILD partaking in this demonstration. That is Illegal I would think, if not damaging.

    • Mills Buchard

      I agree. Up here in Eureka, we have one of the type who believe that rules are for others, and is a member of a group that claims to protect children, has been sharing of her naked pre-teenaged son on the internet. And the boy suffers from autism to begin with.

    • Fortunately, there is no law against children going nude in a non-sexual setting. That child is standing right next to his mother, BTW.

  • Mills Buchard

    Interesting that these people who are intent on saving gum trees, which are a noxious weed, have included a child in their protest. That naked child qualifies as kiddie porn on their part and on yours as well. Even if it is in Berzerkeley.

    • Albert Giesbrecht

      A child’s bare butt is not child porn. Remember the Coppertone ads?

      • Diane Duus

        I didn’t think the ads were necessary either Albert.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Anyone remember the massive Oakland Hills fire in the early 90’s that was fueled in large part by the eucalyptus trees that are NOT native to the area? Remove the eucalyptus trees and plant native trees.

  • jetgraphics

    Who has the superior right? The owner(s) of the land and trees or those who do not?

    And if those who have no ownership rights, tell us what to do with OUR property, is that not unAmerican?

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