Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Environment = Trees?

For the last week or so we are all hearing boasts and political posturings about how many trees have NOT been cut in the floodplains of Yamuna (and therefore the environment there has not been harmed at all) and how many thousands of trees have been planted across the country (and therefore the environment of the country is well and duly protected). Today I would like to share some musings on these tall claims. 

For most urban people trees represent the environment. One of the most popular environment-focused activities of schools, factories, housing colonies, etc., is tree plantation. A few of them even go the full mile and take care of the planted trees till they grow big. The environmentalism of politicians, organisations, and corporations is vouched for in terms of the number of trees planted and nurtured by them. Last year, I met a young entrepreneur, who would undertake to establish and manage a tree plantation on your behalf for the right price, so that you can get the 'environment saviour' tag without yourself lifting a single finger! Right from the childhood anyone and everyone's 'environmental' message directed at me has been - DO NOT EVER cut down trees. I want to sincerely apologise to all these 'gurus' - I am sorry, but in spite of all your benevolent guidance, I have ended up in a business that actually advocates using wood and biomass for a variety of energy services! 

In case you have not noticed - trees beget more trees by spreading their seeds, and eventually die too! If you cut the branches of a tree, they will grow out again! What is the harm in taking out some biomass in various forms from a patch of green, as long as the green cover is maintained? On the other hand, if humans find that the patch of green is doing something for them, they will naturally take care of it. They don't have to be nature lovers to do that, they just need to know which side their bread is buttered on! 

Environment is all the ecosystem that we live in and are part of. This includes plants as well as micro-organisms and animals. Trees and tigers are the most 'eye catching' themes, but just these two IN ISOLATION do not make up 'environment'! It may surprise and even sadden those who spend a lot of effort and money on tree plantation drives to know that trees do not need all that support! Just fence and protect the patch of land you are determined to 'green' and allow nature to take over. In a very short time, you will find that the land will be naturally endowed with a rich variety of flora and fauna - far richer than what you could have achieved by planting specific fast growing trees in neat rows. Furthermore, once the ecosystem is established, if you removed the restrictions on human intervention, and lead people to discover the variety of services that the patch of land performs for them, they might even be motivated to use AND conserve it in the lang term. However, if you keep barking at them to 'do not touch the flowers', 'do not pluck the fruits', 'do not cut down the trees', 'do not fish in the pond', etc. etc. etc., they are going to be more inclined to do just that with no thought spared for conservation. 


So, my sincere request to everyone is - please drop the 'holy' aura around tree plantation! Planting any number of trees will NOT take away the widespread and long term adverse environmental impacts of your lifestyle, irrespective of how much 'religious fervour' you bring into the plantation drives! 

If you really want to 'protect the environment', re-examine the daily activities in your home and place of work/business through the lenses of sustainability and climate resilience. The global processes that allow us to indulge in your own extravagant and wasteful habits and practices are destroying millions of hectares of forests. Changing this lifestyle will go a much longer way to conserve environment than planting a hundred trees. 

Priyadarshini Karve
Director
Samuchit Enviro Tech


#BeModernBeResponsibleBeRespectful
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