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Seed of hope

Publication Date : 13-06-2012


The age-old famous African saying, “when the branches of the trees in the forests are fighting, their roots are kissing,” holds even greater significance today. The axiom in itself expresses a harmonious relationship between people, forests, polices and politics. However, the fact remains that the latter decidedly keeps bullying the others. 

Take World Environment Day, June 5, as an example. As every year the day has its theme, this year’s "green economy and inclusion" was the focus of discussion among various environmentalists, donors, practitioners, researchers and to the least, the politicians.

This year I was overwhelmed by the various programmes and events organised all around the world by various groups.

Adding to my dilemma, my three and a half year-old baby picked up a leaflet and asked “Ma, what is this?” Not to my surprise, the flyer was an advertisement featuring the five best forest films showcasing to mark the World Environment Day in one of the university auditoriums in the city.   

Every year, June 5 comes and goes reminding us about the value of planting and protecting trees.  I still recall my grandmother running after us when we deliberately missed our morning prayers in front of the Tulasi and Bodhi trees in our backyard. Ancient Hindu scriptures have explicitly mentioned Kalpavriksha and about the values of worshipping sacred trees. For example, Ashoka is one of the most legendary trees according to Hindu mythology. The Bodhi tree has its own virtues in Buddhism and Hinduism. According to one of the Hindu legends, it is considered auspicious to worship the Bodhi tree especially on Saturday because Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, inhabits the tree on Saturday to offer her blessings.

Take another example: Arbor Day.  It originated in 1872 in Nebraska City, US, with the aim to encourage people to plant trees. This campaign has been scaled up and now many countries around the world have been observing a similar day.

In recent times there has been a renewed interest among private sector companies, as part of their corporate social responsibility, to support green projects that help raise the livelihoods of rural communities and protect the environment. The concept of ecotourism is blooming and many Unesco heritage sites are getting due attention as well.  

The other day, Bangkok Post ran an article about Toyota Motor Thailand in collaboration with Thailand Environmental Institute initiating an award to promote low-carbon living and self-sufficient communities from a few years ago.

This year Chiang Mai province’s Ban Num Hlong community will receive this prestigious award for their outstanding work in protection and conservation. Their typical environmental projects encourage villagers to reduce the use of plastic bags and keep their villages green by planting trees on people’s birthdays and on other big and small occasions.

Early in the morning on June 5, a Nepali friend of mine emailed me to share the achievement of Rupa Lake Rehabilitation and Fisheries Cooperative of Kaski. This cooperative group was noted for making a remarkable annual income through the management and conservation of the Rupa lake. My mind began to get agitated by all these events, news, e-news posters and photos; all blowing their own trumpets. In the midst of this crowd, there were these two powerful women silently beckoning me.  One was Mama Miti—Wangari Maathai—the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who became famous for her knowledge of ecology and sustainable development. The Green Belt Movement which she initiated has so many lessons to offer to today’s concept of green economy.  And, the other: my grandma.

When I try to find an association between such legendary ancestral skills and knowledge about the environment and today’s concept of green economy, I find only commonalities and not much difference.  It seems that the only difference lies in the way the original idea is being politicised, policed, reworded, rephrased and repacked.  

It is worth noting the radical view expressed in  La Via Campesina (the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, landless men and women farmers, indigenous people and migrants from around the world)’s position paper for Rio +20 and beyond. It states that beneath the deceptive and bad-intentioned term "green economy" is a new form of environmental destruction along with new waves of privatisation, monopolisation and expulsion from our lands and territories.

A growing number of states around the world have begun to realise the essential role of indigenous men and women’s rights, knowledge, skills and practices which play key roles in both the conservation and development of natural resources. A recent report from the Right and Resources Initiatives—a global coalition of organisations working on forest-rights reforms—draws a powerful yet simple conclusion that forests protected by indigenous communities of Asia, Africa and Latin America have lower rates of deforestation and carbon emission.

If the aboriginal knowledge, values and skills that every family has to offer on biodiversity conservation and management in can be harnessed in any little way, we will have very little to regret not.

Grandma used to say that when we plant seeds, we not only get foliage but a seed of hope, peace and love.


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