Berkeley Protesters Bare All For Trees

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Activists at the University of California at Berkeley got naked on Saturday to show their love for nearby trees that authorities are planning to cut own.

About 50 people showed up at a grove of eucalyptus trees on the campus of UC-Berkeley, stripped off their clothes, and began to intimately interact with the trees in the grove for the benefit of photographer Jack Gescheidt.

The nudity was organized by Gescheidt as part of his Tree Spirit Project, an effort to create fine art photographs by, well, taking pictures of naked people while they cavort about in nature. The project’s website describes it as an attempt to “raise awareness of the critical role trees play in our lives, both globally and pesonally [sic].”

The Berkeley photoshoot was held in order to protest a plan by authorities in Oakland, UC-Berkeley, and the East Bay Regional Park District to cut down thousands of trees in the area. The plan, which has FEMA approval and could start by the end of August, is allegedly needed for both fire prevention and to check the spread of the invasive eucalyptus tree. Wildfires are no petty concern for the area. In 1991, a firestorm tore through Oakland and Berkeley, torching over 1,500 acres of land along with 2,800 homes. 25 people were killed.

The matter has local environmental groups feuding. The local Claremont Canyon Conservancy thinks the plan should go farther, both for the sake of preventing fires and to protect local wildlife from the invasive eucalyptus. They say the eucalyptus was particularly to blame for the fire because of its heavy production of bark and leaves which create substantial fuel for a blaze.

But the naked protesters claim the Conservancy has it all wrong, and that cutting trees down will only increase the fire hazard. Protester Ken Cheetham told The Daily Californian that the cutting plan was “extremely misinformed” because living eucalyptus trees hinder fire by collecting moisture. Cheetham also dismissed concerns about invasive species, saying different lifeforms “can find ways to adapt to each other.”

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