Friday, February 02, 2007


In recent days there have been some rather uncivil exchanges between Cal fans and, I guess, tree fans. We've had to switch the blog to moderated comments, which is disappointing, but the hassle is better than a stream of obscene one-word posts from trolls.

That's of course what makes the Stadium story so irresistible to the mainstream media - the antagonists hate each other. On one side you've got Cal football fans, most of whom attended the University and suffered through at least four years of living in the People's Republic of Public Filth and Assorted Madness. On the other hand you've got the professional protesting classes, who love trees and conflict and hate the University and most other large concentrations of wealth and influence. These groups would argue about the weather, let alone a large construction project.

Regardless of one's views on the project, we can all agree that anonymous posts filled with ad hominem attacks on the character of the other side add nothing to the debate. So we're inviting anyone who is legitimately involved with one of our four antagonists - the Tightwad Hill crowd, the City of Berkeley, the Panoramic View homeowners, or the Oak Tree mob - to join us in a friendly Q&A on the merits of the University's project.

Seriously - we'll go modified Lincoln-Douglas style, with an unedited opening statement and then an exchange of questions and answers from both sides. We of course reserve the right to point out the errors in your statements, since we're confident there will be more than a few, but we won't edit anything you say beyond obscenities and calls for illegal activities. We're not afraid to hear your side of things, or to let you pick apart our arguments for the project. We are skeptical that you're willing to do much more than shout epithets and massage the facts to suit your needs. Prove us wrong. Send us an email with your credentials and we'll go from there.

And just to show we're of the best intentions, here's some old school Santana as inspiration. Probably the only thing we can agree upon is that this kicks a little ass, even considering Carlos' outfit.


At 8:11 PM, Anonymous joshiemac said...

Good call, Tightwad. We could use some civilized discourse on this matter. I'll be interested in seeing the response.

Personally, I find it to be a tough situation. I don't hate trees. In fact, I like them very much. I grew up in the extreme north state and I spent many a pleasant hour in my youth wandering in the Shasta Trinty National Forrest. I would never actively advocate killing a wild tree.

That being said, I find these oak protestors to be disingenuous at best. Anybody with any knowledge of the area knows that all but a handful of these trees were planted by the university as decoration when Memorial was built. To say that they are some sort of old growth costal oak just make me see these people as liars. As such, I have no trust or faith in their arguments. And frankly, I probably share many political beliefs with these people. But that doesn't mean I find them any less pathetic.

They see the University of California as some horrible "moloch" type entity that is nothing more than a mechanism of the "man" when in fact the UC system, and Berkeley in particular, is a shining beacon of light and hope for everyone in Californa--and for everyone in the world for that matter. For all its faults, we are lucky to have something like the UC in our beloved state. Perhaps these protestors should stop and think about just who and what they are standing against.

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

One candidate for potentially worthwhile debate/discussion would be the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. I happen to disagree, strongly, with them on this issue, but otherwise I think they bring a very welcome perspective to the table. Indeed, their website includes an informative set of discussions regarding the history of Memorial Stadium and Strawberry Canyon.

But to echo what Joshiemac has said, BAHA is just as guilty as other training-center opponents in both (a) emotionally targeting this project because it is associated with (gasp!) college football; and (b) exaggerating the social-environmental value of this particular oak grove. Indeed, they ludicrously compare the current controversy to a 1925 row over a threatened stand of Monterey Cypress trees at Point Lobos--which was, in fact, truly rare old-growth.

The sad thing for me, as a strong supporter of environmental movements in general, and saving native-California vegetation more specifically, is the perverse effect these protests will have. Because what's the message they're sending? If you're a big property owner (e.g., the UC), do NOT plant native vegetation because someday you'll want to remove it and a bunch of deluded media whores (err, activists) will be standing in your way. It's much smarter, or so it would seem, to plant some noxious invasive weed like Eucalyptus, because when it comes time to rip it out to build something new (see Stanford's new stadium), nobody will give a damn.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Tell you what; in the unlikely event we get a bite from this invite, both of you guys are in our corner. Great points.

At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll have to agree with you joshiemac. I am a diehard Cal football fan, but at the same time I love nature and am all for its preservation. Having said this, it seems like some of the tree sitters are genuinely concerned about environmental issues (in which case there are far greater problems in our world that need to be tackled), while others in their camp are merely using the trees to propagate their own agendas, which generally tend to fall along the lines of "fuck the system, and fuck the negative influence that excessive greed and money have impacted on modern life". Although I actually agree with parts of these principles (albeit not to any extremes), I find it sad that some of these people choose to use the oak grove issue as a smokescreen for their actual agenda. There are far better targets than Cal athletics for this (ClearChannel, anyone?) I must also add that much of this impression was gathered after having *objective* conversations with some of these tree-sitters (I live right down the street), so it's not just pure conjecture.

In the end, I find it very discouraging that this issue has polarized the Berkeley community so greatly. It really has brought out the worst generalizations and close-mindedness from all parties involved, tree lovers and football fans alike. I must admit that I lost some respect for this blog with that immature remark about finding a vendor for sudden oak death, or how you imply that many Cal football fans had to "suffer" through living in Berkeley. I love this town specifically because so many people are open-minded enough to understand and accept that different people will have differing ideas and like different things in life. We don't need ignorant people (in both tree lover and football fan camps) to ruin it for everyone. So yes I think a moderated debate would be a great idea, but only if the parties involved try to understand each other better and maybe even reach a reasonable compromise, rather than provide more childish taunting. As if we didn't have enough conflict in this world already...

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