A climber remains perched in front of France’s environmental ministry

Thomas Brail is a French activist, a climber, who travels around France and supports local communities in their fight for the protection of trees that are going to be cut down without a good reason.  He’s most known for protesting by climbing into the crown of a tree and spending often many days and even weeks there. His style of protest is not only a way to directly prevent the imminent cutting of the tree, but it’s also a great way to attract the attention of the media and of the authorities.

It’s ridiculously hard to get serious media attention for a small scale cutting of trees. Removing 5, 10 or 20 trees in some city in France is not something that gets on the radar of media outlets or even of environmental organizations. The scale seems too small and insignificant, but when we add up all cutting happening across France, a major problem begins to emerge from the fuzzy picture. France was hit by a major heatwave this summer, and more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of every single tree in the urban areas. These city-dwelling trees are very effective at reducing the severity of urban heat islands.

Thomas can’t prevent the cutting off every tree, but his actions, strategy and rhetoric are inspiring and empowering local communities across the whole country. He is having a very peaceful and diplomatic approach , he often says that we should behave like trees, with patience and benevolence.  His main goal is always to engage in a dialogue with the authorities. He emphasizes that having a strong legal base for our opposition to the cutting off the trees is essential. When the authorities refuse to engage with him, he packs his equipment, his hammock and climbs up. He already received support from several climbers who are following his footsteps. But before you start climbing on a tree in your city, know that Thomas always emphasizes that this kind of protest is really dangerous for people who are not professionals and lack the necessary equipment. So please, don’t !

Right now he’s protesting the cutting of 25 Sycamores in the French city of Condom (yes, this is not a typo, it’s the actual name of the city). The trees are old, all but one are in perfect health, and are home to a protected species of bats. He took his fight all the way to Paris. He has been perched upon a tree in front of the environmental ministry for more than a week. He demands to speak with government officials about the urgent situation in Condom. The trees could be cut this week.

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