Protesters at UC Berkeley get nude for trees

The protesters stripped naked at a eucalyptus grove on the school's campus to protest a tree clearing project in the East Bay Hills area.

Eucalyptus trees at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), have really been feeling it this week.

Approximately 50-70 activists stripped naked this past Saturday at a eucalyptus grove at the UC Berkeley campus to protest a proposed tree-clearing program in East Bay Hills that endangered an estimated 450,000 trees. The protest was led by the Tree Spirit Project, which was founded ten years ago by wildlife activist Jack Gescheidt in an effort to “call attention to the issues swirling around eucalyptus trees.”

“This is a war on trees,” Gescheidt told Campus Reform in an interview. “We need to tell more people and get them involved and put a stop to this nonsense… They’re no longer [treated as] trees at all. They’re treated as monsters.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $5.7 million to the California Office of Emergency Services to remove eucalyptus trees in order to reduce fire hazard in Claremont Canyon and neighboring areas. According to the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, the 1991 wildfire that engulfed the area had claimed the lives, homes, and properties of tens of thousands of people, totaling a cost of more than 1.5 billion dollars.

“The claim about trees being flammable is nonsense,” Gescheidt told Campus Reform on behalf of the eucalyptus trees. “All living trees and forests are fire resistant.”

Gescheidt said he took action on Saturday because “UC Berkeley has been cutting down eucalyptus trees saying that they are invasive and ‘dangerously hazardous’ trees and that is not true.”

He also said that the chemical used to treat the trees, glyphosate, is a known carcinogen and highly toxic, posing as a health risk to nearby communities.

The Tree Spirit Project has orchestrated similar rallies in the past, which involve human volunteers posing naked alongside trees. The demonstrations are photographed and published online.

The Berkeleyside claims that the demonstration was staged. However, Gescheidt told Campus Reform that the event was not staged and that all his photographs were authentic captures of demonstrations or rallies.

“The reason people are naked in my photographs are to be vulnerable,” Gescheidt said. “Trees are vulnerable. They can be cut down and do nothing to stop us. Humans are too vulnerable when naked.”

Gescheidt added that clothing is socially constructed and part of a “very narrow perception of what is beautiful,” blocking the true human body image from being exposed to the world. “Human bodies are beautiful. We needn’t be always hiding under our clothes and ashamed. We should be proud of our bodies.”

While the Saturday event has received a lot of media attention, it has not received any sort of backlash from the university or the general public. The demonstrations were not disrupted by passersby or campus police.

Photos of the nudist activists have gone viral, nonetheless, stirring an online frenzy.

A commenter on the Daily Californian joked about the Saturday event, “Those poor trees would take one look at their huggers [...] and up and die of their own accord…”

The eucalyptus trees were unable to comment to Campus Reform on the issue.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @PardesSeleh