• workshop 1 on 20121012 and 20121013. participants; Heath Bunting, An Mertens, guillaume neu-rinaudo, reg carremans, karin ulmer, lucia penninckx, els de greef, rasa alksnyte, nik gaffney, maja kuzmanovic.
  • workshop 2 on 20130406 and 20130407. participants: Rasa Alksnyte, Heath Bunting, An Mertens, Karin Ulmer, Wai Wai, Christel Dusoleil, Mie Demin, xxxx. Underlined questions of Workshop 1 were treated in Workshop 2

Concept: Legal identity of trees in period of rapid extinction


walk and tree identofication in Forest de Soignes / Verdronken Kinderen-Enfants Noyés.

Different elements of identity we looked at:

  • origin
  • age
  • gender
  • position/address/postcode

General parameters that create a 'normal' identity:

  • minimal for a natural person: name, date of birth, nationality
  • if you can provide an answer to the questions: “what's your name?”, “where are you from?”, “how old are you?”

Nationality is complex in general, and also for the tree

in some cases nationality could be replaced by citizenship. could this equate to the family or species the tree belongs to?

  • functional: telephone, email, postal address, gender
  • extra: health insurance number, debit card/bank account, tax number
  • actual: website, facebook, linkedin, myspace…
  • 'What can x do?'

proposal to create a 'corporation' around the tree?

  • A new legal persona is not necessarily a natural persona
  • Personhood can refer to
    • a human being (material essence, for example a person living on the street)
    • a natural person (for example, someone able to produce a state issued ID)
    • an artificial person (a corporation)

Personhood is defined by

  • institutions
  • a bureaucratic system
  • data: if you have enough data you can find/create meaning → 'invocation' of persona

'Natural and articifial persons' are considered to be the property of a human being, any property can be

  • kept
  • passed on
  • destroyed

we could wrap a corporation around the tree, insert a human dna-fragment in it…

if you don't have a birth certificate, you need a story…

How do we proceed?

  1. proto-personhood for trees: 'law', relationships of management & property
  2. philosophical: why?
  3. physicality: 'functionality', relationships to other people/things

A lot of trees have numbers (is there a register? how is it managed?), we can presume all trees have a owner in Belgium but owners may have different status (forest, private property, city of brussels)

So maybe interesting to add the parameter of 'owner/user' to the series of tree-parameters and talk about 'lineage' or 'species' instead of nationality

Q: who owns it? Who has an interest in using it?

A tree is defined by lineage but also by 'the context': a tree in the city will be different, it can be climbed, polluted, dependant on humans ('candle stick' pruning)

Q: where do the seeds come from? where did it grow up?

We make a checklist and look at it from different perspectives

Perspective of a tree: does not want to be chopped off & wants the right to light, soil & water

We looked at an 'Oak du marais' in rue des Minimes. it was transplanted 6 years ago from somewhere else, serves as a 'bar', a meeting place, contains lights from humans, hosts birds…

Look at the plane trees (platane) in front of the Walvis. they are planned to be chopped down, and a local protest was mounted because they are the 2 only trees at that side of the Boulevard (between Yser & Porte de Ninove). There is a plan to replace them with 3 new trees planted 3,5 m closer to the bar (effect: the terrace will be half as big)

  • We can create it and integrate it in our daily language, start taking it into account → method of 'invocation', it will start to exist
  • Look at the bigger picture: what if trees have legal identity & rights? How will we live alongside them: as separate entities or as chimera of tree/humans
  • a way to reconnect with trees, restore the natural-human relationship. e.g in some parts of Lithuania it is unthinkeable to cut a tree.
  • can we create a map of Brussels' forest?
  • do we see artificial arboreality as a business? what does it offer in terms of services (oxygen, fruit, fertile soil) - any shared good is value less in the dominant economic ideology of looking at the world → maybe think differently?
  • look into the 'personalities' of the trees
  • Ecuadorian constitution that has integrated the rights for Nature in the law
  • we are the system: there is no authority imposing a system on us, we're the embodiment of a system, our 'identity' is a position in the system we occupy
  • Heath's motivation: If we have rules to manage our identity, we can invert the rules to create identity
  • the human being can occupy most echological niches (of species that disappear)

Next phase: proof of concept, create prototypes

  • Look at information & data that exist already
  • question the frequency & absence of parameters, reconceptualize location, speed, appearance of the aboresceal persona

books & further reading

UK barrister Bob Colover and Heath Bunting discuss the legal issues around identities. What constitutes a person? What is the difference between an artificial and a natural person? And what are the legal aspects of buying an identity? in “Natural and Artificial Identities, or The Ease of Interaction.” A conversation between Heath Bunting (artist), Bob Colover (UK barrister) and Annet Dekker (SKOR) » http://www.skor.nl/nl/site/item/interview-heath-bunting-bob-colover

  • Compendium of Symbolic & ritual plants in Europe
  • Guide to wild foods
  • Mycelium running: how mushrooms can help save the world
  • The revenge of Gaia
  • The end of the wild
  • Hildegard's healing plants
  • A new green history of the world
  • Deep Survival, Lawrence González

Introduction of remarkable trees in Zoniënwoud/Forêt de Soignes

  • the oak
  • the colonialised tree: beech of 1882 with an enormous gall, first impression is that of a strong powerful tree, when you look behind it, you see it is invaded by the parasite mushroom Ustulina Deusta → possible stories: the forest is considered to be a museum because of its 'beech cathedral' but the actual museum is underground, authentic forest soil (never has been used for agriculture, unique for Belgium, interest of archeological researchers), testimony of all layers of geological changes & host for large networks of fungi: parasites, saprotrophics, commensalism, mutualism.
  • The solidary and the miraculeus: 2 beeches along the pond, one has a scar that is 20 years old (method to cut a tree: you make a camembert to indicate the direction, you cut half through to make it fall over). The guard wanted the tree to fall in the pond and serve as an ecological habitat, he stopped half way, because the solidary lent his branch to lean on → possible stories: about forest management since 14th century, le code forestier in 1854, contemporary situation (1 guard for 200ha in Brussels Region, 9000 visitors/ha/year; forest is distributed over 3 regions (40% Brussels, 54% FLanders, 6% Wallonia), accepted as protected area in framework of EU-project Natura 2000 since 2007, 1st collaborations between regions, future as Unesco World Heritage?)
  • Prince charming: hornbeam/haagbeuk/carpinus betulus: how could it grow like this? The French way to differentiate a beech from a hornbeam: 'le charme d'Adam est d'être à poils' or NL 'Knoppen behagen de twijgen'
  • The Quadruplet: hornbeam, is it one tree that fell off and got new sprouts? or is it a fairy ring of trees (usually mushrooms)?
  • The kissing trees
  • other trees: the larch (fast grower, encourages the young beeches to grow), the lime tree, the birch with fungi …

Creation of identities

  • 'beech': symbol of positive future scenarios for planet earth, as it is easily blown over by strong winds → demographic and ecological situation is very alarming, believing and implementing positive scenarios are not 'quick business' with fast visible results. Can we imagine small side stories that cover the larger tronk, the way the beech is protected by small trees; think of a world with detention of material needs, a tree party in Parliament, trees as conflict solvers (talking sticks in African tradition), because it is grounded (translator in conflict), filter out water, CO2, oxygen; humans give carbodioxide
  • 'oak': symbol for strong blast away apocalypse story / Cyprus / world crisis / ; the oak can be representative of capitalist society driven by money, the symbol of patriarchal society because of the way it grows its branches vs lime tree (can we look for a new symbol? the birch maybe?), symbol of Germany. We eat the nuts, use wood for house, for ships (to win wars)… Counter argument: in the old mythology of Balkan the oak is matriarchal, it allows for very good shadow, you can soak/chew/dry nuts, make coffee, tea, burn the wood, use leaves for clothing…
  • 'birch': pioneer, time scale / migration / adapt through preparation (no shock → diarrea, constipation), every part of the tree is useful for human people, we're silver birches around the table. Can birches be new symbol for Northern Eur & North Asian population
  • 'larch': time: change your mind through changing your scope: story of ice age, 2 millions years ago till 10000y ago, migration. We think that we need much, tree with five elements can live 200 till 1000 years, human needs so many things to become 80 years old. The larch is representative of the primitive reproduction system, spore-families, it maintained the same instinct, this is how it works. We went too far of our instincts, we believe the 'smoking cigars & knowing the right people' works, and ignore the knowledge that we still have implanted in us, especially in relation with the nature, f.ex. Cycle of the nature, how it works, gather water, build the house (not very different within aborigonals in Australia & indian communities in South America. And also: the Archer's guild in Brussels has become so rare that it has become very special

Other thoughts:

  • As humans we have the ability to change our mind: responding to our basic needs, we can change the status of the place (Foret de Soignes can be a reserve or a domain for agriculture (everyone can cut tree down), important to 'aim' the most important tree: if that tree is in danger, they will all work to heal it and protect it (< war theory: do not kill your ennemy, injure him so the rest of the army has to take care of him)
  • what are we trying to protect: money, income – security mechanism, fight to exist (we find it very difficult to give up things, f.ex. give up mobile phone, psychological reasons), change politically for luxury. Fitting / doesn't work anymore, people do not want to change

Exploration of trees in the city of Brussels (1000)

* Introduction to the juridic context & management of trees and parks It is complicated :-)

These public trees can belong to different official owners: the city, the Region (regional roads & parks), the king, the federal state. This is the first thing to find out. For the parks this is easy: Check the 'infofiches/fiches d'info' at http://documentatie.leefmilieubrussel.be For the roads there is the latest Regional Bike map (with relief & waterproof!) that has all the regional roads indicated in bold.

Almost all parks are protected. The trees in Regional parks and on Regional roads are signed with a number. Nevertheless, the numbering system is different for trees in parks and trees along regional roads, 'just because the system was already in place' in the two different institutions that manage these trees:

  • regional roads Dept Monuments & Landscapes: f.ex. Av Royal Forest 107.01.156

First number (the ax on which the tree is located, Small ringroad is nr 1); 2nd number (part of the ax on which the tree is located, usually number between 1 and 7); 3rd number (the number of the tree in that segment). The number is attributed by the company that composes the geographical information templates for each tree: Eurosense Belfotop SA. They take aerial pictures with infrared light/camera and analyse the vitality of the trees. All regional road trees are surveilled each 3 years (1/3 a year). From 2013 the trees will have a 4th number, which is the year of plantation.

  • regional parks BIM/IBGE: f.ex. Parc of Laken nr 2508

The newly planted trees in the city of Brussels have only been registered since 2008. In 2011 the city started an (non-publicly accessible) inventory of all trees in 1000 Brussels. It is not finished yet. The rumour goes there are about 40000 different trees.

The Region has set up a public database on 'remarkable' trees: inventaire arbres. A tree can be part of the scientific database (it corresponds to the selection criteria), the conservation list (bewaarlijst: the tree cannot be cut or treated more than normal maintenance without permission of the state) or on the protected list (idem bewaarlijst + when the tree dies, a tree of the same species has to be planted in the same location). Selection criteria are: a considerable trunk (at 1,5m), the localisation (the more visible for the more people, more remarkable), the frequency (less frequent, more remarkable), the historical value (referenced in literary and other works), the age, the individualisation (in group, less remarkable) etc.

The team of the 'Cel Groene Zones' of the city of Brussels has selection criteria to chose trees to plant. The trees are 'suitable for urban environments' when:

  • their roots resist salt (in winter)
  • they resist pollution (cars/busses)
  • they resist litter & vandalism (when you break a branch of a fruit tree it will not survive)
  • they can stand presence of humans at their roots (a walnut tree needs rest at the roots for the first 15y of its life, treading the soil condenses the soil and puts pressure on the roots)
  • they are easy to maintain and don't cause too much trouble for inhabitants (leafs that fall off, block the sewage etc)

Trees that are frequently planted: plataan, ash, lime tree, hazel, hawthorn Another criteria that is on stake for trees in the city: the presence of sewage, waterinfrastructure, gastubes or electircity cables in the underground, f.ex. there are no trees in Rue Dansaert, which is an important ax)

* exploration city

Walk in the city center, looking at trees, what they provide us with, how we could ent them Final destination: Prutske, the fig tree at La Bourse that is present in the scientific database of Monuments and Landscapes Discovery: the mini-oasis of biodiversity on Pantsertroepensquare, that has a 'bad' reputation as a dirty gipsy park trees are more difficult to identify because they have not blossomed yet and the maintenance has eliminated leaves, fruits or other identifiers… amazing how little grass and paths are left in the city, we guess it has also to do with maintenance and tidiness

Walk in the city forest: park of Laken where trees are like 'furniture for humans', discovery of a group of yews, shaking the branches produces a cloud of dust (pollen), female next to male trees; some numbered trees (check!)and a series of traces of which we are not sure whether they are from humans or from animals (wild chestnuts, leaves, chicken bones, rests of a walnut)



* Colin Tudge, The Secret Life of Trees, Scala, 2009

Law & Management Links

  • Brussels City (1000), Cel Groene Zones - responsable for choosing, planting & maintaining trees in 1000 Brussels: Patrick Maes Patrick.Maes@brucity.be 02/2796006
  • Le code forestier Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels (not changed since 1854, paper copy is with An)
  • Garde Forestier Verdronken Kinderen: Mr Willy Vandevelde (FR): 0497/599 463

Different uses of trees

  • legal_identity_for_trees.txt
  • Last modified: 2014-03-14 14:27
  • by foam