An Invitation and a Challenge
At last, the jury is in. The verdict is out. And the verdict of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is: Yes, the earth has fever, high fever. We, the sons and daughters of Mother Earth have given her the fever. The fever is rising alarmingly. Worse, unless we control the fever within the next 15 years, it will be too late. Life on earth will then begin to trundle down towards destruction and death, towards complete extinction.
With this threat looming over us, are we going to just keep looking at the thermometer and shaking our heads in desperation? Or are we going to throw ourselves into purposeful action and pull life on earth out of the jaws of death?
Who is going to give the earth the right medication? Us or, as usual, somebody else?
You may well say: No, I don’t want to be just a passive, indifferent onlooker of this catastrophe. But what can I do, all alone, all by myself? The catastrophe is too big for me and all too daunting.
Look! The answer is very simple. You can do just a small thing that would bring big results. Plant trees. That is all.
Plant trees? But plant them where? Who is going to dig the pits? And who is going to provide the saplings? And, in any case, who has got the time for all this?
Well, valid questions all these! But there is a simple two-step answer:
- Just preserve the saplings that grow naturally in and around your housing colony. Better still and yet very simple, grow a few saplings directly from seeds, in the space available on the premises of your housing colony and /or in flower pots in your flats. If you work at this collectively as a housing colony or a concerned neighbourhood, all the better and all the more pleasurable!
- In July, moisten the soil around the saplings, gently ease out these saplings from the ground – or flower pots – making sure their roots remain in tact and then wrap their roots with moist earth carefully so that the roots don’t remain bare. Then spread a wet gunny bag or sack on the floor, place these plants upright in it and then tie up the sack.
Your job is done. You have already made contribution to reduce global warming.
At this point, ‘Hariyali’ will collect these saplings from your doorstep and will plant them in the environs of Thane. Pretty soon, your tiny saplings, some which you would have even weeded out, would grow into trees and cool and heal the earth.
You might well ask: Who or what is Hariyali?
Well, attached alongside is a brochure on Hariyali and a few press-cuttings about it. In a nutshell, Hariyali is an action-oriented voluntary organization working for the cause of environmental protection and enhancement. Its current focus is on three areas: large-scale afforestation, water conservation and creation of environmental awareness.
Some of its more notable activities have been as follows:
- Conversion of abandoned stone quarries into water bodies.
- Distribution of a wide variety of tree seeds, on a massive scale, to the pilgrims (the varkaris) on their way to the Vithoba shrine at Pandharpur. The idea is for the varkaris to plant these seeds along their route, on either side, as they walk their way to Pandharpur. Some of the seeds so distributed were acquired for free while a majority of them were bought from Adivasis. Over the last three years Hariyali has distributed seeds worth over 3 lakh rupees to the varkaris.
- Over the last ten years Hariyali has managed to rope in the services of 20,000 volunteers, covering the whole gamut from students through working folks and housewives to senior citizens. Shramdan – or the gift of work – is what Hariyali primarily expects from volunteers.
So, that is Hariyali!
The selfsame Hariyali will collect from your housing colony the saplings that you would have so lovingly grown and plant them so that they grow into trees and, ultimately, woods and forests.
Well, let us ask you something here. By any chance, are you troubled that this contribution of yours would be too trivial? Not at all! Look at the figures below:
- One fully grown tree produces oxygen worth 5.5 lakh rupees in fifty years
- It removes air-pollution worth around 10.5 lakh rupees
- It adds 6.5 lakh rupees worth of nutrients to the soil, besides checking soil erosion
- What it gives in terms of fruit, timber, shelter to birds and insects and shade is quite apart from the above.
Thus, when one sapling of yours grows into a tree, you contribute 22 lakhs rupees to the cause of environmental health. If through one tree you contribute so much, just imagine what a huge fortune you would bequeath to your children and grandchildren through the scores of saplings you would give to Hariyali in 2008 ! And that would be the value of just one year’s work of yours!
Another point. In many housing societies, there are compost pits. If your colony has one, April onwards, just go on dropping into this pit the seeds of mangoes that you eat. Drop them well spread out. Without any effort, most of these seeds would put forth saplings – about a foot or a foot and half high – by about the third week of July 2008. That’s the time to pack them for Hariyali to collect. Depending on the state of rains, Hariyali would tell you exactly when you should get the saplings ready for collection.
Hariyali would collect from you other saplings too at the same time. The mango saplings, being grown-up enough, will be planted right away. The others, the ‘toddlers’ will be first grown to larger size in plastic bags and planted during the next monsoons.
There is another way you can shoot your personal arrow at the demon of global warming. Collect seeds of trees wherever you find them, maybe while walking in a park or while on a trek or perhaps under that lone tree outside your office. Then dry these seeds in shade, if you will and then preserve them in wood ash or neem leaves. Hariyali will collect these seeds from you too.
Now, a slightly delicate matter.
Say, you are an average driver of a car. This means you drive your average car over a distance of about 12000 kilometers a year. To mop up the carbon dioxide emitted by your car in a year it would take 500 fully grown trees one year’s hard work. Yes, 500 trees, not 50 trees. There is no typographic error!
So whatever you would do for the cause of tree plantation would not be just an altruistic social contribution but a small step towards ridding Mother Earth of pollution that you personally have unconsciously perpetrated.
Well then, are you ready to commit yourself to this small – but very big – task?
Here are some of the consequences of global warming that the scientific community has predicted:
- Increase in sea-level leading to large tracts of seashore and several coastal cities – including large parts of Aamchi Mumbai – going under water
- Bizarre and unpredictable changes in climate (Isn’t the current winter in Mumbai a foretaste of this?)
- Ecosystem shifts and dying off of several species of plant and animals
- Terrible droughts at some places and heavy rains and flooding at others
- Desertification of several currently fertile lands
- Deadly heat waves and greater incidence of fierce hurricanes
- Major increase in insect-borne diseases such as dengue, encephalitis and elephantiasis
- Shrinkage in biodiversity
Nerual, Navi Mumbai
28th December 2007
Col. Ravi & Mrs. Vaijayanti Joshi