OPINION: Save the trees, not the solar panels


Cecilia Torres


With everyone becoming more and more environmentally conscious, it is not surprising to see schools and businesses alike take the initiative to “go green” by installing solar panels. This would normally be a good thing, but what is troublesome now, is the decision to remove trees to make room for more solar panels.  

The issue recently came up when the Bakersfield City School District, who is currently in the process of adding solar panels to many of its schools, revealed that they were planning to remove five large trees at Voorheis Elementary School to make room for additional solar panels.

The idea that the need for solar power outweighs the need to preserve trees is one that many in the surrounding community don’t agree with.

“I feel like its cutting down mother nature. There’s a lot less trees in the world and a lot more buildings and parking. Trees provide oxygen and they help us,” said Mia Samayoa a junior psychology major. “I prefer trees over solar panels.”

According to a study published in 2016 by Health and Place, trees and green spaces help reduce stress and generally improve mental health. Also, it linked more tree cover in neighborhoods with vigorous physical activity, less obesity, better general health and less asthma in adults between ages 18 to 64.

The study’s findings really resonated with me, having lived in Bakersfield since 2001, because it is hard to ignore the increasing air pollution.

The city could really benefit not only from trees but from green spaces in general. Bakersfield City School District shouldn’t cut down trees we already have, if anything we should be planting more.

Green spaces are beautiful rare sights here in Bakersfield.  Benjamin Medina a senior psychology major, finds that the ongoing housing development in Bakersfield contributes to the removal of trees and thus the limited green space.

“Trees make the [CSU Bakersfield] campus more ‘green looking’ and you don’t see that a lot here in Bakersfield because it’s the Central Valley,” said Medina.

There has been a great effort to bring solar power to schools, and that effort is both appreciated and encouraged but the attention should now be more about how each campus approaches installing solar panels.

According to a press release found under the news archives tab on the official CSUB website, CSUB activated it’s 1.2 -megawatt solar parking canopy system in 2011. A system that provides between 25 to 30 percent of  the total energy use on campus. To put that into perspective, it will generate enough energy to power more than 3,100 average U.S. homes. It will also offset more than 29 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years which is the equivalent of taking 2,800 cars of the road.

CSUB’s approach is a good one. The solar panels not only provide renewable energy for the campus but they are also a source of shade. They are an addition to the campus, an addition that didn’t require the sacrifice of the beautiful trees and green spaces that students enjoy so much. Many schools have the same approach, it is a common sight to see parking lots in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and higher learning institutions adorned with solar panels.

What is happening at Voorheis Elementary is a different issue because the trees, which are decades old, are involved. The benefit of the solar panels on the Voorheis campus is not what’s in question. What the community is asking for is, for the BCSD to reconsider the decision to cut down the trees and instead find a more suitable location for the solar panels on campus.

John Rodriguez a junior computer engineering major, thinks that the decision should be in favor of what is best for the school regardless of what the community wants.

“It is less money spent on energy,” said Rodriguez. “They should probably still install the solar panels, it’s bad but still.”

Medina on the other hand, thinks BCSD should listen to what the community has to say.

“It’s worth listening to people’s opinion,” said Medina. “Whenever people are vocal about ‘I don’t want that’, it’s always good to look into.”

To cut down trees to make room for solar panels sends the wrong message. Even though trees are not advanced technology like solar panels, they naturally do so much for our environment just by existing.

“It’s a good way to save energy and it’s eco friendly technology, but if we have to cut down trees, I prefer not to have solar panels,” said Samayoa.


Artwork by Kenia Lopez, The Runner.