Last time I visited the nursery for the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation, the climate was one of youth and vigour, full of promise; when I returned recently after nearly a year the scene could hardly have been more dismal. Nothing has happened for the trees during this time except Padmini (now widowed) had watered them.
Even a year ago they were in need of attention: bigger packets and more rich soil to grow in, more space in between rows, all the mature saplings needed to be planted out even then – a year ago. There were several thousand, many mature saplings, many root-bound in broken plastic packets far too small – these trees are in dangerous condition. This is a horticultural disaster.
Padmini and her family soon gravitated to the presence of Kannan and myself – Kannan, tipsy as it turned out, behaved in a very oratorical sort of way spouting a short course on the birds and the bees. When I asked him a question he turned lop-sided and told me my appearance was like a film star. With my gorgeous rainbow umbrella. The dogs came too.
The family seemed to know that the saplings were not in good condition, but they are disempowered people. The owner of the land who kindly offered us this space to make a nursery always seemed to me a nice man however he is a politician.
The saplings desperately need help, so I immediately contacted several possible organisations whose managers are well-known to me and trusty, who could perhaps arrange for the trees to be planted and maintained, but it will be expensive to rescue these plants: the pits need to be dug and good soil prepared very quickly, they need to be in the earth by the time it rains – they really needed to be in their final resting place by last month. When the people I spoke with expressed interest I explained that they needed to contact the new managers of the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation as soon as possible.
However more than two weeks have passed since those conversations and the likelihood of them contacting the relevant persons is very slim due to the ubiquitous initiative problem. Moreover Padmini’s family told us that the person now in charge of AKSP (who has previously demonstrated considerable lack of understanding about the Botanical Kingdom, natural processes and The Law) is only interested in getting money for the trees, which is ludicrous because they are in such bad condition.
The friends previously responsible with me for this NGO are dismayed at this situation and also – like me, apprehensive about dealing either with someone unlikely to be honest or a politician. It is like being wedged between the devil and the deep blue sea with lives at stake – several thousands of them; all horticultural lives, nevertheless lives on the edge.
In terms never considered by the vast majority: what’s at stake here is the potential wastage of thousands of years of Mother Nature’s effort in growth.
On what edifice do i make this claim you may ask, well: I am speaking of at least four thousand saplings, say averaging around three years growth each – a conservative estimate considering many are around six years old and all have stood in the politician’s field for a year.
Hence, just for the exercise of appealing on behalf of The Rights of Mother Earth, we can clock up approximately one hundred and twenty thousand years minimum that is in danger of being entirely wasted – wasted in the sense that there appears to be grave danger that these beings will soon expire.
Although raised as they were to give shade, flowers, fruit, bark and leaves (some with medicinal properties as well as nutritional and aesthetic), to purify the air with oxygen in place of carbon dioxide so we homo sapiens sapiens in particular can breathe, to safeguard our waters above and below, since their roots sustain surface soil from erosion and in addition, draw up and maintain underground water near to the surface and prevent desertification, and not to mention the capacity of trees to contribute to cloud accumulation and hence ultimately rainfall; nevertheless their life support systems are challenged now by over-population in a finite space. Not unlike ourselves.
To be fair we should in addition consider the hours of human labour invested in raising these saplings over the years and the time expended to raise the salaries to pay the nursery workers . . . . . All wasted.
But this is nothing, is it, nothing in comparison with the monumental waste of hundreds of thousands of two-hundred-year-old Tamarind trees (planted by the British) that are presently being bulldozed over, chopped up and carted off to make way for widening of highways all over Tamil Nadu, highways demanded by our vociferous appetite.
An appetite that involves the expense of fossil fuels that required millions and millions of years to form from the dead bodies of all the forests of the world. Fuels that now pour tons and tons of poisonous gases into our atmosphere, gases that are contributing dangerously to the breakdown in our climatic system, heading unchecked so far towards the tipping point soon, beyond which restoration of systemic balance will no longer be possible and our beautiful planet will forcibly generate climatic conditions uninhabitable to life as we know it.
We are going from Something towards Nothing.