23 January 2016

A nice touch

The city of Copenhagen has invested in a little pampering for cyclists. Not something that would make a dent in the budget, slanted trash cans along the bike lane (for easy disposal on the go) and a few nice railings with a foot rest, for leaning and hanging with the (bicycle) family, at a red light. Still, there are stingy voices complaining that this is a waste of public funds, arguing it is not really a necessity. Unlike getting around by car, I assume? That toxic waste of space, claimed by too many, to be something they can't do without?

Yeah, I say spend the funds pampering the cyclists. And watch the goodness evolve. 

I like

I like

the way

the way

you

you

touch me

touch me.


31 December 2015

The year in pictures

I have been asking myself where the year went. What happened? The pictures bring it all back. What an utterly hellish year, this has been. Globally, locally and personally. No sugarcoating that one. It all ended with the death of the camera, perhaps to punish me for so infrequently pointing it at anything interesting.

January.

Red

Signed Redie.

Plywood decoration on one of the many constructions site fences in Copenhagen. Behind this wall a high rise in the making (Panum Institute), visible from nearly every angle of Copenhagen. This painting is breathing somehow, compared to the neutered versions found on the many metro construction sites, where artists go through a screening process and everything is neatly organized. And boring. Sorry, but it is.

February.

Poetry

Snow. At this rate, I am not sure we will see that again in Denmark. Reports of blooming cherry trees. In December?

March.

Hold that car

In a picture, the struggle to stay afloat in a world that is crumbling around you. The horror of the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen taking its toll. 

April.

Children's urban garden

From a school yard, just across the happy house. A bittersweet encounter. The human need for nature and watching things grow, is why children cut out soda bottles, strap them to a fence and plant a vertical garden with watercress.

May.

Running

For my own sanity, I need to get out of Copenhagen more. Current mood is that of one being swallowed by a whale (December speaking).

June.
Come June things picked up. Five street artists were commissioned to work on a handful of Copenhagen murals, and my camera was zigzagging between endangered trees (that we miraculously managed to save, yay!) and mad talent firing at five huge walls simultaneously.

Local street art is dying, there is so few traces left now. One of the many sad effects of gentrification. The more reason to cherish the parking guard turned stone snake, on Vesterbro.

Head of the snake

Stone snake

Mad love for this creature. Next to it another breath of fresh air. 

Copenhagen graffiti

This one made it to my selection of street art pictures, in my first solo show. On exhibit in Edinburgh, Scotland City Link Festival, earlier this year. The one I forgot to tell you about. I may have to brush up on my horn tooting skills too.

July.

July was the month where I decided to give the dating thing a shot again. Took this picture during it.

Slow down

Slow down.

Dating wasn't as bad as I remembered. It was worse.

Wild things

Wild things.

And what may be my favorite shooting moment of the year. Pregnant woman bringing home the crib.

Pregnant woman bringing home the crib

Poetry in motion.

August.

Midnight in Paris

Seine spider in Paris, by night. 

September.

Ivy heart

October.
(Camera died)

November.

Ungentrified

A rare ungentrified patch of Copenhagen, Stengade on Nørrebro. As misunderstood by my replacement camera, but in a totally acceptable way.

Skinny moon under a rescued tree

When it all sucks, the trick is to find something you love and appreciate the crap out of it. Like a skinny moon under a rescued bunker tree.

December.

Heart shaped tree!? <3

This one blew my mind: a heart shaped tree!? Oh.

That's it. Only hours left of this year, I beg of the next one to be gentle with me. With all of us.


 

20 December 2015

I salute thee

This week, my scarf escaped both my bike basket and my attention, and behind me I heard “lady, lady!” (in English). A man came running after me with my precious scarf. So sweet. The next day, as I was taking a really shitty picture with my backup camera (yes, my camera died on me, hence the lacking updates), my bike fell over. A man stopped to help me. A foreigner, as well. Today, I was at the flea market with my Italian friend, and when I got home with all the horribly heavy stuff, my downstairs neighbors, the sweetest couple from Poland, carried it up to my door. Like they have the last three times.

It was then I fully realised how I would not want to live in a city, or even a country, with no foreigners. They just make everything better. 



18 December 2015

Mission Maple Tree

While it is fair to call me a tardy blogger, I have been a really busy treehugger, with Red Byens Træer (Save the Urban Trees). Yesterday was a milestone for the citizens tree movement in Copenhagen. A sign of a new kind of democracy, with citizens leading by example.

Two weeks ago we learned that nine trees were about to be cut down in a park, for yet another metro line. Red Byens Træer contacted the Metro Company to see if any could be moved. Something that the city is reluctant to try and do not believe will work for big trees, despite evidence to the contrary. We met at the park, where a heartbreaking eight trees could not be saved. Some were simply too big to move, others were entangled in stupid floor lamps. What kind of moron deliberately place electric wiring in the root zone of a tree? Ugh!

The only tree that could be saved was a tall and beautiful 20 year old ash, that we at the time mistook for a maple tree, and that later initiated Mission Maple Tree (Mission Ahorn). 


The tree made the front page of a widely distributed local paper, with a plea for adoption, but there were no takers. The Metro Company handed us a deadline: Friday at 11AM it goes. That was last week. The night before my favorite park manager, allowed us to plant the tree on city soil in Fælledparken, but the city would not pay for the move. A nervewrecking twenty minutes before felling time, we managed to delay the deadline until Monday, leaving us the weekend to flash-crowdfund the move. By Saturday the citizens had pulled together and funded the move at 7500 DKR, expecting to save the tree before the deadline. 


Summer version by Google. Alle the trees in front and to the right are gone. Precious canopy cover lost.

Just as we thought we were home free, came the chock: a ramp needed to be built, and it was not, as we were misinformed, included in the moving cost. The Metro Company, missing the huge PR moment completely, would not assist us in any way. Best they could do, was to postpone felling one last time.

In another two days, we amazingly managed to raise the same amount again, to buy six tonnes of gravel, and the assistance of a paving and gardening company. Putting up signs, planning for the ramp, booking, coordinating, blocking parking spaces, everything had to work out, or we would lose the tree. And like magic, it did. Here is the big day in pictures:








Apart from that fence from hell, with everything properly coordinated, the move itself was smooth. Until we hit the streets, and had forgotten to factor in the low hanging Christmas decorations... The moving truck found a way out, but at Østerbro's busiest intersection we were sabotaged.


In black and white because: drama.

The amazing gardener, refusing to be beaten, jumped out of the truck, ran into the intersection and climbed the tree. Along with the treemover, they gently tied the crown down, and managed to just slip under the wire. Not a single honk from drivers, despite blocking the street for several lightcycles. Pretty cool, Copenhagen.


By some miracle I had chosen the right contractor for the assignment. Who else would have gone to this length? I am so grateful. Shortly after, we reached the destination. 


The damages were controlled.


And the tree lovered into its new home.




 Mission accomplished!

All that remains now, is to see how it handles the move. If it goes well, the city is... urged to admit, this could be a viable alternative to the senseless fellings. My dream is to create an urban forest of rescued Copenhagen trees. All with their own story, on a big map. Fingers crossed for the beautiful ash. I know it is a survivor. You can just tell.

Links:
Save the Urban Trees, blog (Red Byens Træer translated into English)


28 November 2015

A shotgun wedding

At the moment Denmark is split in three: Team Yes, Team (hell) No, and the Undecided. Next week Danes decide if we should give up sovereignty and irreversibly hand over a large part of our justice system to the EU. 

Since 1992 Denmark have an opt-out in a few areas (justice, defence policy, home affairs and currency), but now Europol (the European Police) is pushing for us to go all in. At no small cost. Now, the politicians relish the idea of not having to ask the voters opinion, so most are pushing for the Yes: "Hand over the reins once and for all, and let us take care of things from here." Reassuring us that Denmark will still have “a seat at the table” (weighing in as a tiny nation, with insignificant powers).

The Yes-propaganda have consisted mainly of worst-case scenarios, so ridiculous that they instantly backfired. But the most influential part of the media have been shamelessly promoting the Yes-agenda, highlighting only how much safer we will all be.


Yes! / No!

Team Yes sees us as a member state in the European Union. Hanging on to the concept of a nation, is considered nostalgic. We should all prepare for the new world, as dictated by the European leaders, and not look back. They don't seem to get the reluctance to hand over all control. A small price to pay, they say, to have the Danish police be an integrated part of Europol. A small price? It doesn't get much higher than that.

As you can gather I am on Team (hell) No. The funny thing is, I love Europe and I feel as much like a European as a Dane. And, I am a big supporter of collaborating across borders. Surely that should be possible without handing over all control? Why the shotgun wedding? Do we really want to partner up with a system that won't let us make our own decisions? 

I believe in a Europe where we all bring a different flavor to the table, not a big, bland and uniform mass, ruled by a powerful few. Diversity should be celebrated, not ironed out. Collaboration? Absolutely. Shotgun weddings



 Hell no!


 Untainted recap of the upcoming vote in the EU Observer: 


04 November 2015

Copenhagen on fire

What’s with the long break, you may wonder? Copenhagen is on fire, and I find it so hard to just sit back and describe it. My first instinct is to put out the fires, so that’s what I have been doing with my time. It is about the trees, of course. The relentless, escalating deforestation, in the name of progress and urban development. 

Recent examples: A university (of Natural and Health Sciences, of all things) took down a garden to make space for bike parking. 

 
Once upon a garden, now only alive on Google Street View. Like so many Copenhagen trees. 


Butchering in progress. Because bikes just can't be parked under trees? 


Red Cross destroyed the most beautiful magnolia garden, to lay more brick. I still can't look at it. Here is what it looked like in the spring of 2013:


And the last goodbye this summer, look at these magnificent old trees. 


We tried to see if they could be moved, but the trunks were split too low, making it impossible for the machine to reach around them.


Painful to know that only one month later, they would be gone. 

New areas of Copenhagen are being developed with zero consideration for nature. The old Carlsberg Breweries area is transformed from a historic, industrial space, into tower upon tower of luxury apartments, the new Carlsberg City. Dancers, galleries, children and creative outlets are not able to meet the market price, and have been evicted. The legendary Climbing Forest is going to be felled, the brewer’s beautiful old garden with rare trees is gone, all the adjacent street trees: gone. 


If you know or visited Copenhagen, you may have greeted the big elephant gate at the end of this cobblestone road. 


Now stripped of old trees. Urban planning and corporate greed at its worst.


I don't think I have the strength to document the Climbing Forest, about to be felled. But I may have to, in respect of Copenhagen history.

As a rule existing trees are rarely included in plans, as they are challenges to architects and limits the amount of space investors can profit from. Also, building around trees cost more, and they all get away with “replacements”, in the ratio 1:1. Not taking the massive loss of leaf mass and biodiversity into consideration. Conveniently ignoring how newly planted street trees have a life expectancy of four to seven years, due to impossible living conditions for young, fragile trees.

The citizen's movement Red Byens Træer (Save the Urban Trees) that I founded after the big Bunker (-tree) rescue, have been steadily growing, and yesterday we were featured on National Danish Radio P1, in the documentary program Natursyn, for 45 minutes of glorious tree talk. And we have finally got the politicians talking about implementing a tree policy for Copenhagen.

But the one case that has been sucking all life out of me, is Møllegade on Nørrebro. Where the city decided to make a tile square, where there is now a rare mass of trees. A small forest of 18 poplar-, apple-, mirabelle- and ash trees. 


For years we have fought and pleaded with them to include the existing trees in the new plan. We were not allowed in the citizen's group, cherry picked by the Administration, and our involvement was not welcome. But that didn't stop us investigating. We learned that the City Administration had lied to the citizen's group, stating that the trees were sick. Effectively shutting down a unanimous wish to preserve them. 

The Nature Conservation people inspected the trees, and gave them all a clean bill of health. So why did the Administration declare them sick? Did they have the wrong information? We gained access to the documents, confirming that the trees were healthy and most even declared worth preserving. They simply lied, to get their way.

But, at the time we exposed the lie, the plan was already set, leaving only three of the existing trees. We complained to the City about the Administration, and the complaint was handled by... the Administration. Ignoring the part where they lied. Stating that the cherry picked citizen's group were happy. Happy is code for Afraid To Get On Bad Terms With The City. To the point of accepting a blatant lie, costing us a small forest. 


These three trees will go, to make room for a swapping shed. Yes: a shed. Moving the shed slightly from the wall, would preserve these trees, we have even had advisors to the building trade suggest they use a screw foundation, to mount the shed, and spare the trees.  


On opposite corner a cemetery. Square meters not as readily available, to the developers hungry eye.

Thousands of Copenhageners have signed a petition to preserve our trees. We don’t need a tile square, we need trees. And, in this part of town: desperately so. At 6 m2 of nature per citizen, compared to an average of 35 m2 for the rest of Copenhagen, Nørrebro is suffocating. Lack of trees affect os severely, both in quality of life and in the air we breathe. Less big trees means more CO2 and toxic particles, killing off 500 Copenhageners annually. Cutting down big, healthy trees in the urban space, should be prohibited.

But despite our effort, the massive public outcry and exposure of a defective process, the politicians decided to let the plan pass, without a vote (!). By spring 2016 this will all be gone. 




Yesterday these poplar trees were topped, which means the entire canopy was cut off all the poplar trees. A pratice referred to by professionals as mutilation. And this was not the first time, for the poor poplars. This is how we treat our trees in Copenhagen.


Goodbye old friends.


This old ashtree will be felled to make room for another shed, for children's toys. 


If I hear another politician or developer utter the word "replacement tree" I swear...

So what's next? I have decided to go ahead and file a complaint about the City of Copenhagen, to the Government Ombudsman, for lying to the citizens. This process have highlighted a serious problem: the Administration is running the show, not the people we voted for. And, citizens are not being heard. It is a mockery of a process, and if we only get one thing out of years of fighting for the Møllegade trees, let it be that this pattern will not be repeated. 

That’s what I have been up to. Can you forgive the long silence?


Links:

Save the Urban Trees, blog (Red Byens Træer translated into English)