In the city we sometimes hear of noveau-riche oddities. One story unfolds like this: A man with his newly acquired wealth bought a property and wished to build a home of his dream. The plot of land had a tree-cover but he instructed his builder to chop off the trees to give his new house a clean, ungrizzly look. He couldn't care less about a breezy south end in summer to cool off or tree branches to shade some of his rooms, or indeed, any chirping birds to wake him up from sleep.
Late Satyajit Ray had an explanation for this kind of coarse taste: In an interview over Kolkata radio he had remarked even in mid-seventies that culture elite (don't misread it as aristocratic) was being swamped by money elite.
If in the city we have an upstart in the rural areas we have perverts with an insatiable appetite for sawing off well grown trees on the roadside under the watch of, or shall we say, on the cusp of local administration. The collusive business among saw mill owners, project operatives under some aided money for tree plantation and local body or administration people are scripting a new folklore in money making. The environmentalists and lovers of ecology do not raise their voice of protest against such destruction of trees because perhaps they are preoccupied with much broader issues of concern. Slowly and steadily though, the country's future against the onslaught of climate change is placed in avoidable jeopardy.
Trees are living creatures; how much pain does a standing tree which is being chopped off root and branch, endure before it is laid prostrate on the wayside? We are dealing with a new genre of tree killers reveling in cash flow out of the decapitated parts of a fallen tree.
Of a special brutal temper were those who during the blockades in December last year and early January this year uprooted whole trees, cut them up in road-wide stretches and put them up as barricades to seal off the countryside from the capital city. Some 15000 trees were felled as many roads were cut up in the middle to make it doubly impossible to clear the road for communication to be restored.
Here you remember Nobel Laureate for Peace 2004 Wangari Maathai of Kenya who died last September of cancer aged 71 drawing a curtain over a career devoted to the well being of her people, a beacon for the rest of the world as an icon of environmental activism. Her Green Belt Movement earned her the citation about her "contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace". While working as chairman of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) she was approached by Wilhelm Elsrud, executive director of the Norwegian Forestry Society. The latter offered to partner with her Green Belt Movement as "seed money" came from United Nations Voluntary Fund for Women. Small stipend would be paid to the women who planted 'seedlings' through out country.
Wangari Maathai's words resonate with all sensible people "After all, I was a child of the same soil. Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from land.... The future of planet concerns all of us, and we should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree."
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.