TREE PLANTING

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The Ethiopian government declared ‘Hamle 22’ as a tree-planting day and mobilized its numerous work force, along with the general multitude, to plant as many trees as possible all over the land, at least in places where it is raining. The planted seedlings, we are told, number about a third of a billion. The ambition is commendable. The major challenge in any reforestation scheme is making sure as many of the planted seedlings as possible survive the elements. This is no easy task, given the number of years it takes to have a mature tree. Even if three percent of the planted seedlings make it to tree-dom, one can regard the exercise as more or less successful. If the tree planting exercise continues at this rate, (say for a decade), the total number of additional trees would be about 100 million, not an insignificant number!
If we can attain a success rate of say 6%, instead of the above 3%, we would have 200 million trees. It is clear where the emphasis is. Real headway in afforestation can be made, if and only if, nurturing and up keeping become second nature to us all! Once this concept is internalized, planting trees would become an ongoing routine activity. To be fair, previous attempts, which were not as widely publicized, have also contributed to the challengingly protracted effort of countrywide afforestation. The forest coverage of the country has gone up somewhat significantly since the major drought of 1984 GC (Addis-Bahir Dar, etc.) As usual, estimates vary. Today, the countrywide coverage is estimated to be about 5% of the total landmass. Figures aside, we consider the following two points to be more important in the long run. The first is the attention/support the government is willing to avail for the tree-planting initiative. For this year campaign, all government offices were closed to mobilize needed manpower across the nation. The overall effort is bound to have lingering effect on the whole bureaucracy. The experience might even instill a more green oriented approach to the various government undertakings. The second crucial point is the awareness-raising aspect of the project. Unfortunately, the danger associated with environmental collapse has not yet entered the consciousness of our general populous. If truth be told, we have joined the rank of those who are ecosystem challenged! To us Africans, this is a shameful comportment, because we used to subscribe to a belief system that respects nature in toto! Or as the wise succinctly put it; ‘the environment is everything that isn’t me’ (Albert Einstein).
By any measure, we Africans live close to nature than any of the upright walking apes roaming the planet. Yet, we have exchanged our time proven ways for superficial existence that depend on highly unstable and unsustainable concoctions that are visibly destroying the life support systems of the planet! It is about time we interrogate what has been thrown at us by the dying modernity. Holding to our heritage that respects Mother Nature and Ancestry might help us confront the prevailing alienating modernity that is strangulating life on earth. For example, we consider, amongst other things, our childish infatuation with concrete jungles, especially after these monstrosities were thoroughly discredited in the countries of origin, to be an idiocy of the first order. Admittedly, for many a simpleton, ‘skyscrapers’ announce arrival, arrival at the station of modernity, stooped in unsustainable consumption. To those willing to learn, experience inform us, the urban rat race has already sucked the life out of the northern sheeple (human mass). It is now rapidly destroying the very fabric of our communal life here in Africa! Sadly, our learned elites or what we casually call our ‘Ivy Idiots’, are not in the habit of original reflections, hence, seem to be unable to thoroughly analyze our predicament. To start with, these ‘intellectuals yet idiots’ (IYI), to use Nassim Taleb’s recent phrasing, base their knowledge on mere copycatting and a very slanted one at that! The works of critical thinkers anywhere, past and present, are not in their reading repertoire. What they mostly concentrate on is trivialities, stuff that can make them ‘look good’ in front of their masters and idols, the dominant interests of the prevailing lopsided globalization. These groups are at the forefront, when it comes to destroying not only the planet’s natural habitat and resources, but also the organic social existence of Africa’s diverse population!
In conclusion, we recommend the following. The government can dedicate, say the third week of Hamle, as ‘environmental awareness raising week’, and culminate the campaign by tree planting weekend, not day. A single day might not always do it, for various reasons (rained out, etc.). One should also note tree planting exercise is challenging in the rural setup and might need more than a day to accomplish the task at hand. The awareness-raising week can take up different environmental themes each year, including sustainable agriculture! In addition, by doing the planting on weekends, we need not sacrifice a whole working day. This is our two cents worth. See the articles next column and on page 35.
As the late Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate (2004) and forest champion/environmental activist used to say: “The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.” Wangari Maathai. Good Day!