By Holly Downes
I give them oxygen; in return they cut my roots. My leaves begin to quiver at the sight of an approaching chainsaw. I meet the killer’s eyes that reek of desire – a desire for my leaves, my bark, my fruit. I try to search for a flicker of remorse, a temporary hint of regret, but instead I find dollar signs. That’s what I am to them. A commodity. They want my timber for a garden bench. They want my leaves for medicine. They want my bark for a canoe. The abundance of trees around me try to scream for help, but we are helpless compared to the chainsaw. They slash my branches which begin to bleed betrayal – we trusted humanity to conserve us, but they instead leave us with wounds we cannot erase. I can no longer provide their oxygen; they must find another way to breathe. But I have one question; why kill the very thing that gives you life?
I give them water to drink; in return they throw their rubbish at me. I once gracefully flowed through the cities, keeping humans alive with my fresh water supplies, water that has now become stagnant. I have aged too fast. Last year I was an energetic, agile river whose currents glided through cities, but now I am lethargic. My currents are blocked by smashed beer bottles, a plastic bag crying ‘recycle me!’ and heaps of coloured crisp packets. I no longer reflect the sun the way I used to. The floating plastic artificially reflects the sun’s rays, proudly shimmering upon my murky water underneath. This new plastic river suffocates the fish below, poisons my now undrinkable water and creates a stench of rotten eggs. Humans complain, but they pollute the very thing that keeps them alive.
I give them companionship; in return they kill me to satisfy their tastebuds. I was once a newborn piglet who was adored by humans. My little ears and perfectly formed snout were constantly pictured for Instagram with the comments detailing my cuteness. However, I am now hanging in a butcher waiting to be artistically organised on a plate in The Ivy. The same people who pictured me when I was alive are now taking a picture of me on their plate. They ironically caption it “Sunday Lunch”, a lunch you once awed at? Humanity is full of contradictions.
I give them land; in return they slaver me in concrete. I suffocate under the grey pavements that humans proudly protrude upon. My purpose is to drain the rainwater, but the concrete arrogantly blocks my capabilities. Instead, the water rushes on the surface desperately looking for a crack to seep through, the same way I try to grow through these cracks. I tell them that there is no exit route. We are trapped. As a result, the water floods a child’s playground. It prevents an ambulance from reaching an emergency. A family’s new house is ruined. They complain but they are the authors of their misfortune.
I give them air to breathe; in return they poison me. The air was once pure, fit for a human’s respiratory system, but the city’s transport systems jeopardise this purity. The toxic fumes from engines creep into the air, producing smog the city dwellers try to ignore. They instead see it as just another weather event, like rainfall. Yet, it is nothing like rain. Rain does not cause uncontrollable coughing. It does not force people to depend on inhalers to simply breathe. It does not cause a father to be diagnosed with lung cancer. They caused their own discomfort; my air is not to blame.
They produce heatwaves, flash flooding, droughts, and aggressive storms; in return they die.
It is not my fault they are suicidal.
Illustration: Anna Kuptsova