If Trees Could Talk, They’d Probably Tell Us to Eat Shit

If a tree could talk, she might tell us that she gives zero shits about the mess we’ve made of the world—not after our kind has spent centuries chopping down forests without a second thought. At least, that’s one artistic interpretation.

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A video released last week gives one “bitter, suicidal” tree’s perspective on just a few of the crises facing humanity, including colonialism, deforestation, and climate change. Co-directors Francis Agyapong and Phillip Gladkov made the five-minute film Gen(tree)fication as part of their Cracking Up in 5 video series, which offers a comedic take on various topics, including millennial unemployment. Their view is that comedy is best served dark, and boy, does this tree get dark.

The film uses gentrification as a plot device to get into, well, everything else that’s wrong with the world. It tells this story through a raspy-voiced Brooklyn tree who is essentially over people. She’s over us complaining about our changing environment when people have been screwing over nature for many, many years.

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Ultimately, despite its name, the film isn’t about gentrification at all, the directors admit. It’s about humanity, nature, and destruction.

“We use gentrification to get people to see the bigger picture: How about if we all get moved out because we have no air to breathe?” Gladkov said.

The tree is the perfect narrator for our destruction of the natural world because she’s been around forever. She’s born witness to all people have done and has no fault. And it’s easy to get why she’d be pissed.

“This was our land,” the tree says in the video. “And them? They were colonialists, conquistadors. Us? Well, we were stagnant, planted firmly in the earth. Honey, we weren’t priced out. We were waited out, gutted, sapped for all we were worth. There was no diaspora. What there was, was a genocide of epic proportions.”

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By the end of the film—after the tree’s walked you through the gruesome history of mankind—she says, almost defeatedly, that she’s fine with dying. The end of trees should mark the end of mankind, right? She’s down to see people suffer.

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“We were channeling the level of frustration you get to, looking at humanity as a whole,” Gladkov said. “It’s very disheartening. We’re kind of the cancer of the world, so to speak.”

These filmmakers want viewers to walk away just reflecting on how they’re connected to the environment. People are being displaced from neighborhoods today. In the future? They could be displaced from this entire planet.

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Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

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If you’re using trees for allegorical purposes, you better include Rush or GTFO. Though Rush is from Canada (I didn’t realize there was music in Canada for a long time) and reached its zenith around 1978 in North America, they are boundless in place and time. They are perfect. If anybody disagrees with me, I will be very upset.

“The Trees”

Gentrification is mostly about the new cool neighborhood, developers, post college twenty-somethings wanting to be around similar types versus the people who live there. The folks who live in the neighborhood today probably displaced or filled in the void after the previous group who lived there left for leafy suburbs. For example (and because NYC sucks balls), Pilsen in Chicago is mostly now Mexican, with twenty-somethings coming in more and more. Pilsen a Czech city name was lousy with bohunks at the turn of the 20th century. The bohemians ended up moving to Berwyn from about 1930 to 1950 and Mexicans filled in. The bohunk trail of tears westward down Cermak was filled in by Mexicans and all those west/southwest side neighborhoods kick ass. In all this cool hip talk of gentrification, the uncool shithole neighborhoods and first suburbs don’t get discussed much. Fuck, we just want the goddamn potholes filled and for police raids to be more quiet. Like don’t shoot the dog all the time. In a NY state of mind, one of my nieces moved to Washington Heights after college to be near work. Talk about “one of these things is not like the other.” She moved to go to grad school after about a year.