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How Many More?

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Thank you for joining me on another Saturday morning mind-ramble, and not just any Saturday but a once-in-four-years Leap Saturday. I recognize you may not be reading this on the morning I write it - but welcome anyway. I didn't blog last Saturday because I was away for a long week-end, but I did want to say something on the subject of trees and so I've hatched a cunning plan to roll last week's topic into this week's blog about experts. Voila! I hope the combination works.
Experts are supposed to know a lot of stuff about specific things, way more stuff than your everyday Tom, Dick or Harriet (that's us). That's why they're experts. We're also supposed to believe them precisely because they are the experts. So.... what to do when experts collide? As they do for instance over possible chemical pollution of a basic resource (I've just been to see Dark Waters). Or the likely causes and impacts of climate change/global warming. Both sets of experts can't be right. Do they misrepresent or exaggerate their claims? Is anybody downright lying to protect a vested interest? Almost certainly yes.
Take the Teflon-coated Du Pont company at the black heart of the afore-mentioned Dark Waters film. Their experts knew for decades that the chemicals used in their manufacturing plants were causing health issues (different types of cancers) for their workers; and that the toxic waste they were putting into landfills and pouring into waterways was having a similar impact on local populations - yet they covered it up and blatantly lied to the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Justice System. Dirty, dangerous, bastard experts in that instance! Go and see the movie. It's a terrific piece of film-making as well as being an eye-opener.
When it comes to  climate change, the best we can hope to do, I suggest, is make informed decisions based on empirical evidence. We live in a fragile eco-system and we're screwing it up. The world is getting warmer gradually and that trend is accelerating. It does appear to be related to increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the statistical models suggest bad things will happen on a large scale unless this man-made trend can be arrested. (Never mind that the 'leader of the free world' and his fossil-fuelled bankrollers are in denial.)
One answer, possibly the most effective according to experts, is to plant more trees. They will help to remove dangerously high levels of CO2 from the air. The CCC (Committee for Climate Change) and the Woodland Trust are advising us that in the UK alone (a tiny island on the edge of Europe) we will need to plant 1.5 billion trees if we are going to meet this country's CO2 reduction targets by 2050 - that's 1,500,000,000 in total, or 75 million every year. According to official DEFRA statistics we planted a mere 15 million trees in the last decade (most of them in Scotland) so a quantum leap is required. That 1.5 billion target works out at just over 200,000 every day for the next twenty years. That means we should already have planted 12 million since January 1st 2020 - and I bet we haven't even started yet!  It raises immediate questions for me: what sorts of trees (evergreen? or deciduous?) will be most effective? Where are these 200,000 saplings a day going to materialise from? Where is the land they are going to be planted on? How is it all to be funded? Call the experts. I look forward to the plan.
I have always loved trees. I grew up surrounded by date palms in Nigeria and we had banana and mango trees in our garden. On relocating aged five to England's much greener land I discovered the dangerous delights of laburnum, plus the usual apple and pear trees (my childhood gardens had all of these). When I was ten my father took me back to the farming town where he'd been born and showed me a towering horse-chestnut tree that he'd planted from a conker when he was nought but a lad himself.

How Many More?

Garden by Vincent Van Gogh

Even now in the jewel of the north I have a magnificent purple-flowering magnolia tree in my front garden and I'm planning to reconfigure my rather sparse back garden this coming year. There simply isn't the room to plant very many trees - much as I'd like a garden similar to the one in a favorite Van Gogh painting (a reproduction of which has hung in various kitchens of mine over three decades) but I'm determined to do some small modification to make the area a sight greener and I have a rowan tree in mind, if I can find a suitable specimen.
For a new poem this week, I owe a debt to my friend Max (who wrote a comment referencing the Bhodi Tree on a fellow blogger's Tree blog last week). That was the spark that led to the following research and poetry.
In 623 BC the Nepalese prince Siddhartha Gautama forsook his life of privilege and became an itinerant in a search for inner peace and spiritual fulfilment. Legend has it that his quest culminated in a period of prolonged meditation (seven weeks to be precise) seated beneath a Peepal (fig) tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar in India. At the end of his forty-nine day meditation, Siddhartha announced that he had found enlightenment - a state of perfect knowledge combined with infinite compassion. He thanked the tree for its gifts of enlightenment and shade. His spiritual teachings became the basis of a new religion and just as Siddhartha became the Buddha, so the fig tree became the Bodhi Tree, or tree of awakening. Descendants of that original tree have existed at Bodh Gaya for over two and a half millennia. There is still one growing there today, a popular destination for pilgrims, and the fig tree has been accorded religious status in many parts of India.

How Many More?

Buddha under the Bhodi Tree (of Awakening)

Mr Page and gentle readers all, I hope you'll approve this latest from the imaginarium.
Dig The Big Fig
When it became infra dig for a Nepalese prince
to wallow in hollow luxury, he set out on a quest
for true values and found the wisdom he desired
beneath the spreading shade of the Peepal tree.
Cross-legged and attired in a beggar's raiment,
he'd meditated seven by seven days straight until
enlightenment was granted to his soul: that
resignation is the goal, compassion is the key,
for everything which lives is holy. As for the rest,
material wealth, position, power - all illusory.
Real satisfaction and peace of mind will only come
from being kind. Dig the big fig and what it said.
Finally, as a bonus, loosely related to expertise, here's the title-poem from Brian Bilston's first collection:
You Took The Last Bus Home
you took
the last bus home
don't know how
you got it through the door
you're always doing amazing stuff
like the time
you caught the train
   Brian Bilston, 2016
That's all folks...thanks for reading. Be kind! Plant a tree! S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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