Time to hug a tree?

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates.

was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

The Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC) is trying to stimulate public interest in a debate about how to manage the 'risk' posed by trees. Apparently around 6 people a year are killed by falling trees or branches, which does not seem a major problem, but nevertheless the British Standards Institute has produced a draft standard (BS 8516) for inspection of trees on a regular basis.

This can be read and commented on http://drafts.bsigroup.com. The RRAC claims the standard has been developed by a rather narrow group led by arboriculturalists who stand to gain from its adoption, while the potentially enormous costs would have to be met by tree owners. Many of the comments on the BSI site echo this view, and point to the unintended, but rather predictable, consequences of large-scale felling of trees by owners to avoid the costs of inspection, which hardly seems desirable.

The standard is short and very easy to comment on. Interestingly, the section on 'quantifying risk' contains nothing on how these risks are to be quantified.


PS You may not have heard of the RRAC. To quote from their website, the aim of the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (or RRAC) is to develop upstream thinking across the Government on policies where there are current or potential public risks and where regulation is a possible policy outcome.