It always saddens me to see aged olive trees cut in the middle of the trunk, regardless of the fact that branches will grow again, it is an aesthetic disaster, not just an eyesore…its a "soul sore" to me. It bothers me greatly that such natural beauty is tampered with. Most people cannot afford to contract a bulldozer and so rather than ripping the trees out completely from the ground its is much more feasible for them to simply cut the tree in half. I guess this is better than the olive tree vanishing, but looking at half a tree also serves as a painful (at least to me) reminder of what once stood proud, beautiful, and complete.
I understand that farmers may be dissecting older olive trees because the tree no longer yields sufficient crop, and the farmers certainly don't care to have trees taking up space merely to adorn the land, like a piece of artwork. By allowing fresh new branches to grow from the stump, the new "ugly looking" bush that develops may indeed produce more crop. To me, the extra 200 kilos of olives or 5 litres of olive oil to be had from this process does not justify the tragic deformation of both the tree and the landscape. But the owner of the tree does not see it as a national treasure, nor as an image of beauty; olive trees in rural Greece (as well as livestock) are treated as a means to offer something tangible, and valued solely on their utility.
This is the way of the world in the broader sense, I am not targeting Greek farmers or stigmatizing them as being evildoers. They are practical people seeking to improve their lot, even if it at the expense of destroying something valuable in the eyes of others such as myself (and others I'm sure). Its the age old adage, "one man's meat is another man's poison". What helps one person may harm another, and we certainly do not all see eye to eye, particularly when it comes to aesthetics.
But more than competing and varying opinions on what is nice, what is ugly, what is ethically right, what is wrong, this modern tendency to base everything on maximizing crop and increasing profit comes at a detrimental price: everyone's health (in the region we are talking about here) suffers. By striving to squeeze out as much crop from the tree as is possible, the majority of farmers typically spray insane amounts of pesticides and "biological" fertilizers (which is nothing more than a tame name for chemicals than surely contain toxins of all sorts. The farmers spray the olive trees all year round, and the local atmosphere is often overloaded with free radicals that contaminate the environment and destroy residents' lungs on a cellular/molecular level.
Even if one could demonstrate this with unequivocal proof, the farmers would not cease conducting this destructive cultivation practice. It would not serve any purpose describing how and why such unwholesome tactics will continue, suffice it say that the problem,is much greater than archaic olive trees being ousted; part of the reasons and behaviour behind all this form the crux of an environmental and health problem, and so witnessing the treatment of cutting down regal olive trees to their stump is an image of disrespect and a symbol of self-destruction. All of this bothers me on several levels, I hope this blog helps the reader understand my feelings. I am empathetic but the choices of modern farmers in the region is wrong in so many ways, its hard not to get angry and apprehensive.