Friday, June 22, 2007

we all know the legend wangari maathai. she is a legend because she did a simple thing in an extraordinary manner and this simple thing revived kenya's soul.

what's the simple thing.

was it like our beloved ratan tata making a simple phone call to the PM and asking for forests to be ripped open so that his corporate can benefit?

was it a simple thing like our Chief ministers becoming middlemen for displacing tens of thousands of marginalised people in name of SEZ?

was it a simple thing like our media newspapers right gung ho about a booming india and ignoring the environment and rural india?

was it a simple thing like our MoEF which well, simply sleeps?

no. maathai planted trees, lots of them, tens of thousands of them all over Kenya and rejunvenated kenya via her green belt movement which has planted and cared for over 30 million tree. india, with its own base of urban and rural tree activists and/or expertise from maathai replicated this and made sure india also benefits from wangrai maathi as she says below in her 2 quotes.

I used to say to the women, ‘If we say we are too poor to take care of the environment then it will only get worse. We have to turn it around and push the poverty back. Planting trees breaks the cycle: when we can give ourselves food, firewood, and help to nurture soil for planting and clean water, then we begin to roll poverty back.”

Maathai asserts that poverty and environmental degradation are locked in a vicious cycle that can only be broken when the environment is attended to. 'Poverty leads directly to environmental degradation, because poor people do not think of the future and will cut down the last tree if necessary. But environmental degradation will also lead to poverty, because when you have no soil you have no grasses, no trees and no water: you cannot really help yourself.

alas, trees has no part to play in our hip hop suave gas guzzling car driven urban india and hence have no part to play in our policy makers vision also.

we need not look at wonderful maathai. if we look internally in our villages we can find lot of simple, committed people greening their own places. veluswamy of sulur village in coimbatore district is a classic example and he has planted thousands of trees.

tell that to our policy makers and they will laugh. tell them about a car or a polluting factory their eyes will gleam as the latter means 'developed' india.

if you talk about green trees, clean air and unpolluted water, then these have no meanings in 'modern' india.

developed indeed we are in money, degraded indeed we are in our environment.

(He has so far planted more than a thousand saplings, dipping into his pension funds. Helping Velusamy is 72-year-old Palani Gounder, a former coolie, who creates beds for the saplings, waters them, and does everything he can to make Velusamy’s task easier.)