Thursday, 19 July 2007


I turned on the radio in the middle of a BBC interview a couple of months ago. Owen Bennett-Jones was on with his programme called The Interview. Had no idea who he was talking to or what it was about until I heard "Plant a Billion Trees". Now that caught my imagination. It turned out to be an interview with Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and environmental activist whom I'd never heard of (shows you the depth of my general knowledge!). There was something down-to-earth and compelling about the way she spoke. I listened on and was happy. Following is the BBC's website's write up on that interview. Click on the link is you want to read some more about her.

"Dig a hole and plant a tree!"

Wangari Maathai is an environmental activist, a Kenyan government minister, a Nobel peace prize winner. Her despair at the chronic deforestation evident in her home country, when she returned after 15 years abroad, led to a simple act: she began to plant trees.
To date she has helped local women plant over 35 million trees in Kenya and she is challenging the global community to plant a billion trees by the end of this year.

The connections she has made between deforestation, hunger and political unrest have brought her powerful enemies as well as international acclaim; of Daniel Arap Moy, the former Kenyan President, she says: "He sure didn't like me much, did he!"

I've always believed that one of the simplest thing a person could do to help the planet remove the CO2 in the atmosphere and lower global temperatures was as easy as to plant a tree. And if you only have a balcony or a window, then plant flowers, herbs or shrubs. Just plant something. Anything.

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that way. “The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.” Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

Much of the inspiration comes, I'm sure, from the book (and later Oscar winning animation) titled The Man Who Planted Trees. The story about a shepherd who revives a desolate ecosystem of a secluded valley by single-handedly planting a forest over a thirty year period. And what did he do?....why he planted 100 acorns a day.

Wangari Maathai has an organisation called the Green Belt Movement working in conjunction with UNEP, the United Nations Environmental Programme to get people all over the world to pledge and then plant at least one billion trees in 2007.

If you'd like to get involved, go to the UNEP's Plant a Billion Tree website by clicking on this link There is a space on the on the top right hand corner that tells you the target, how many people have pledged to plant and how many have already planted trees. Currently the tally stands at 1,819,898,686 pledged and 1,008,033,579 trees planted. Looks like we've hit the mark. But several million more can only help rather than hurt. It's a really comprehensive site with links to organisations around the world involved in tree planting and even has technical instructions on how to successfully plant your own tree.

"If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree." Chinese poet, 500 BC

"The best friend on Earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the Earth."
Frank Lloyd Wright

"They are beautiful in their peace; they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust. They teach us, and we tend them."
Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor

"Though a tree grows so high, the falling leaves return to the root. "
Malay proverb

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Greek proverb

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Martin Luther

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
John F. Kennedy

"Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness."
Kahlil Gibran

"A tree is our most intimate contact with nature."
George Nakashima, woodworker

"A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great. ... Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree."
Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao

"Plant trees. They give us two of the most crucial elements for our survival: oxygen and books. " A. Whitney Brown

"To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals." Mikhail Gorbachev

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. "
John Muir

"The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings."
Buddhist Sutra

"People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world which cannot sustain people. "
Bryce Nelson

"Reforesting the earth is possible, given a human touch."
Sandra Postel and Lori Heise, Worldwatch Institute

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