Why are so many individuals angry at the removal of the trees?

Over the past week, social media has been flooded with posts related to the destruction of trees in Mosta Square and the sadness at seeing birds flying frantically in a bid to roost.

This is not the first time in the past years that people have expressed their dismay at the uprooting of trees in our country and this comes at a time when the rest of the world has become so conscious of ecological degradation.

In fact, the latest Special Eurobarometer 538 survey highlights the ever-decreasing number of trees on the Maltese islands, with Maltese participants being most to profess that they find it difficult to access nature and green spaces compared to the other 26 EU member states.

The most obvious role of trees is that of providing us with the oxygen we breathe and helping to remove carbon dioxide to protect our atmosphere. Trees also provide much-needed shade, reducing climate temperatures in the area.

The Malta Chamber of Psychologists (MCP) would like to point out that trees provide psychological benefits to people. Trees are a home for nature, and a daily connection with nature is critical for our mental well-being.

This is especially the case at a time when we have been seeing a soaring number of mental health issues. The presence of trees helps to reduce stress and improves mood and mental health. Exposure to greenery increases the production of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter.

According to Peter James, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, staring at trees helps improve our attention, and prepares us for the next cognitive task. This is especially important if we spend a large chunk of our time staring at a screen. Trees may also be beneficial to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by helping them to focus more.

Apart from fostering well-being, trees have also been found to foster pride in the community and even lower crime rates. Their presence in towns may also facilitate socialising which can reduce loneliness. It is not only the birds who would have lost their home in the Mosta square, but one could often see older adults spending time together under the shelter of these trees.

A daily connection with nature is critical for our mental well-being- Adele Muscat

Nonetheless, it is easy to discount the experiences of the birds who would have lost a familiar environment, their home, which is an issue in itself.

The MCP encourages all individuals to make it a priority to spend some time in green spaces. The lifestyle of a good percentage of the population has become a very hectic one, leaving no time to look after our physical and mental health as necessary. Being aware of the benefits of greenery may be a starting point.

This is not to say that trees are going to be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities. Some individuals interviewed in the past few days were clearly not as upset about the removal of the trees in question. Others mentioned that the trees’ roots were making the ground uneven and not allowing for accessibility by older pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.

People are entitled to have their own opinions; and it is especially important to not treat others with contempt and to listen to one another’s voice without assuming the superiority of our own opinions.

The mismatch between what one thinks their own group motive is and what others think that the first group’s motive is, is known as motive attribution asymmetry.

This is the phenomenon by which we tend to demonise the group with opposing views to ours. We generally attribute sinister intentions to those who think differently from us.

Adele MuscatAdele Muscat

Open dialogue is important for issues to be settled amicably and objectively. Although at times we may find it difficult to explain the actions of others, recognising our biases and how to reduce them can contribute to reducing human conflict.

Adele Muscat is the public relations officer of the Malta Chamber of Psychologists. 

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.