Councillor dips into own pocket to buy trees for the people of Hackney

LonFields©DA: London Fields Hackney London E8 2EP 311016 © DavidAltheer [at]
London Fields, one of many tree-rich parks that are the lungs of Hackney

A HACKNEY COUNCILLOR is so worried about global warming that he has bought trees worth thousands of pounds to give away to local people.

Councillor Jon Burke says the UK has been advised to double the amount of tree-planting it does. “So,” he says on social media, “I’ve gone and bought 210 tree saplings for National Tree Week.”

The trees were donated by the Woodland Trust and, costing him £100, will not make much of a dent on the £35,000-plus a year he is paid as a member of the Hackney Mayor’s Cabinet.

Burke, 36, told Loving Dalston: “My wife Ciara and I are environmentalists and are trying to live with a small ecological footprint, so we limit the amount we buy at Christmas; that’s why I could afford it.”

He says on his blog: “I routinely feel overcome with an all-encompassing sense of doom in the face of such gargantuan environmental challenges” as an “on fire” California, politicians ignoring global-warming warnings and Tory ministers hankering after a post-Brexit Thunderdome.

Burke, who says his only earnings come from his work as a councillor, will give away the trees — blackthorn, crab apple, dog rose, goat willow, hazel, hawthorn and rowan —  complete with spiral and cane supports — to people and schools in his borough.

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He says: “While these specimens will eventually deliver some of the oxygenating, carbon-scrubbing, cooling, shading, and drainage that Hackney, like all urban areas, will need to mitigate the effects of increasingly extreme climate events in the coming years, these particular species have also been selected to benefit bees and other pollinators, with differing flowering times providing nectar, pollen, and nesting sites throughout the year.”

Burke represents Woodberry Down ward and, as sustainability councillor, is helping to create a clean-energy company, for the Labour authority.

He emphasises that though he will be distributing the trees from the Town Hall in Mare Street E8, he is doing so as a private citizen not a councillor.

For a tree (you can request the species) contact him via Tree kits, which include a helpful planting guide, can be collected at the Town Hall, but he says he’ll “happily deliver” to anyone with mobility problems.

“To maximise the chances of their survival,” he says, “we need to get them planted as quickly as possible.” He asks that if possible people photograph and share their images with the #HackneyForest tag on social media.

David Altheer 201118

* Backstory: Bollards! Keeping cars off a Hackney path; Goodbye glyphosate; Hackney moves swiftly 

* Main picture on this page © DavidAltheer [at], Jon Burke pic kindly supplied by Hackney council

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