In Cambridge I was part of the Cambridge Tree Trust, a group that planted and cared for trees around Cambridge. I still remember the day when I helped to weed in an area that was once a rubbish dump and now was a park planted with quite a few trees. We were pulling out all the weeds between those trees and a few climbing plants that made it into the trees. That area of the park didn’t get weeded often. So there was quite some work to do. But as we were pulling weeds out I wondered whether we were really doing more harm than good. For we were eliminating the ground cover and made space for whatever can grow there, including some even nastier weeds, which I saw not that far away.
If we really wanted the trees to thrive and the area to look nice, we probably needed to plant some other plants between those trees, which in time would die as the trees took up more of the sunlight. We would also need to weed or spray here far more regularly to allow the good plants to grow. But currently that’s not possible.
I wondered whether something similar also applies in our personal lives and for our community. Do we sometimes try to eradicate something bad, only to make way for something even worse? I wondered whether it is not even more important to put something good where we take out something bad, rather than just removing what is irritating.
I don’t think we are very good at that on a personal level, and even less so on a societal level. We too easily get rid of what we consider unsatisfactory without considering what might replace it and how we might care for the tender shoots of new growth.