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Company's attempt to cut down ancient tree sparks outrage: 'Turning to the axe has been ingrained into us'

The tree is believed to be around 400 years old.

American company Honeywell attempt to cut down ancient tree sparks outrage

Photo Credit: Getty Images

American company Honeywell has drawn intense fire by applying to cut down a centuries-old river red gum tree outside a university building it manages in Darebin, Australia, Yahoo News reported.

Honeywell is an advanced aerospace engineering and building technology company that prides itself on its eco-friendly approach, Yahoo News reported. The building in question is the five-star green energy-rated Agricultural Bioscience research building of LaTrobe University.

Both of these are institutions that should be deeply concerned with nature and their impact on local ecosystems. That's one reason many are angry that the company can't find a way to coexist with this irreplaceable gum tree.

The tree is believed to be around 400 years old, Yahoo News explained. It definitely predates the white settlement of the continent.

As a "eucalypt" — one of seven groups of gum trees related to the eucalyptus — the river red gum provides shelter for some of Australia's most iconic animals, like the kookaburra, Yahoo News revealed. However, eucalypts don't start forming hollows that animals can live in until they're around 100 years old, making it impossible to replace in the next century.

"The sound of the kookaburra is already an increasingly rare sound around suburban Melbourne," arborist James Shugg told Yahoo News. According to Shugg, this particular gum tree specimen is among the "top echelon" of trees in the area.

Chopping down trees has become the default action of many Australians, according to Shugg. He told Yahoo News, "Turning to the axe has been ingrained into us as Australians, it's been an old, cultural thing dating back to colonial times. Consciousness is changing rapidly but we find the people in authority tend to be of the old mindset."

"One of the actions that we need to carry out is actually keeping these trees in the landscape for much longer than we have been accustomed to," he continued. "That may mean giving them the physical space they need and just moving away from them, or installing support systems to keep them going."

According to Yahoo News, Honeywell became concerned that the tree might pose a risk when it dropped a branch in May 2022, and it applied for a permit to remove it in June. However, LaTrobe University performed an independent assessment and recommended that the tree simply receive some extra support, something that the engineering company should easily be able to supply.

Shugg also pointed out that if the tree created a risk, Honeywell could always keep people out of the area — something they're already doing temporarily.

"We can send people to the moon, but we can't find a way to live with this tree?" Shugg demanded. "We can so easily coexist with large trees, we just need to find the will."

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