Trees made leafless by this wintery wind

What they’re telling us and what we do about it

B. Lorraine Smith


Branches bent and fallen to the ground near my home in Montreal. It looks normal. Then we hear an unusual statement. (All photos by me, Jan 2024)

There was a big snowfall in Montreal last month. This is to be expected at this time of year. But the tree damage surprised me.

Montreal’s trees come down due to weather all the time — especially the more gangly branches that haven’t had the pressure of growing straight the way they would in a natural forest. But what surprised me was the number of trees that broke, the ways in which they broke, and the sheer destruction they experienced from a snowfall that wasn’t all that remarkable.

Many broken trees looked like a giant came along and stepped on them.

Walking, running, or biking along the paths I have come to know over the last five years since moving to Montreal, I have never seen the likes of this. And there have been some big, tree-damaging storms!

The message is loud. And it’s hard to hear.

It’s as if I am walking among communities where many members have had their faces stepped on by a giant named Relentless Life-Undermining Decisions (not a very nice giant name, perhaps, but trees aren’t in it for the elegant naming conventions as far as I’m aware). The trees are trying to explain — again, a little louder for those at the back of the room — what is happening, while also hanging on for dear life.

They are condemning the way humans have created modern urban settlements, at the expense of all other life.

“We are your afterthought. Shade-generators, a nuisance for drainage and roofing,” they seem to say. “Though we are a property value increaser if we’re close to the curb. And you find us pretty in parks.”

They remind us that we miss how they are integral to a living system that, when its wholeness is not honoured, can only take so much.

This grove of globe Norway maples is now a flattened mess.

Many trees are split awkwardly at major points in their trunks. Fatal blows. More branches have fallen part-way to the ground, like they are…



B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact.