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  • #4542
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    New topic in response to question from Tom here

    #4543
    annie
    Participant

    Hello ulvfugl and Tom 🙂

    I can’t find Tom’s question but this has been occupying my mind for a couple of days now…

    Just an other casualty in the screw up of the biosphere 🙁

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/dothistroma-needle-blight-threat-to-scottish-pine-forests-1-2540048

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050901073642.htm

    #4544
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Tom asked ( on the blog ) :

    One question: why does the forest need humanity to care for it? In my experience anything humanity comes in contact with is adversely effected (imagine Weyerhauser “looking after” a forest). Great story though.

    Okay. Nothing on the planet needed people, it got on fine without us, and much of it still would.

    However, when we evolved we began to change the ecology, just like other large mammals do.

    As I see it, we were still an integral component of natural ecosystems, up until the time we invented or discovered agriculture, and cities.

    Forget the cities, that’s a separate issue. Farming people developed all kinds of different methodologies, depending upon where they lived.

    Let’s look specifically at farming in Britain, where this particular forest is. The glaciers retreated, and tree cover moved in. For several thousand years, mesolithic hunter gatherers had little impact on the ecology.

    Then the neolithic farmers appear, with their stone tools and crops and livestock, and start cutting the trees, followed by bronze age and iron age farmers, who did the same, and by then we’re up to the time of Christ, Roman invasion, and the last two thousand years.

    This particular fragment of forest somehow survived all of that.

    This is where it gets more interesting. The early neolithic and bronze age farmers depended upon wood for all sorts of things. It was a major resource, comparable to metal or oil. So forests were valuable. They cleared much of the land for fields and animals, but the remaining trees were managed.

    The management was tailored to the species we have here. Unlike the virgin conifer forest that Weyerhauser  clear fell, these are mixed deciduous woods. Unlike confers, several of the main species re-grow from the stump when the tree is cut. Those early people weren’t stupid. They figured out sophisticated techniques, for getting exactly what they wanted from woodland, with minimum effort, whilst sustaining the resource in perpetuity. It’s called coppice management.

    The trees are cut, and then allowed to re-grow, whilst other patches are cut. The cycle can be 12 years, or however large ( in diameter ) you want the wood to be. Generally, small diameter wood was far more useful than big lumber trunks, which had few uses and are difficult to deal with unless you have modern chainsaws and sawmills and tractors, etc.

    For most uses, firewood, tools, house building, six inch diameter branches are a useful sort of size, and that’s what you’ll get from oak and ash trees, in, say, 10 years, and that’s easy to cut to size with an axe.

    So the forests were intensively managed, for thousands of years. These ash and oak trees can be cut every decade or two, and will re-grow from the base, so the base can be may hundreds of years old. What’s more, because the root system is already well established, sufficient to support a large mature tree, the regrowth is very much faster than for a new sapling from a seed.  In fact, it’s astoundingly fast, you can almost see them shoot up from one day to the next. Which means, you can tend and shape them, thin them out to the number you want. So it’s a sort of co-operative endeavour between worker and tree, to produce a particular size and quality of wood for a particular purpose.

    So then comes the next important and fascinating bit. In natural woodland clearings ( created by a fallen mature tree or deer or aurochs, etc ) there’d be a natural ground cover of woodland plants, which would thrive until trees grew high enough to make a shade canopy, when the glade plants would mostly disappear.

    Coppice management provided regular artificial glades. Thus there was a sort of co-evolution. The seeds of the glade plants would wait in the soil until the humans felled the trees, and then they’d emerge and thrive for a few years until the canopy was closed again, along with all the insects, birds and mammals which relied on those plants.

    So this is where it gets REALLY interesting.

    As you noted, Weyerhauser and the like just kind of strip mine forests, destroying everything.

    But this coppice management, which provided all the timber needs of local communities for thousands of years, actually BENEFITED all the forest species, and INCREASED biodiversity.

    This is the ultimate in eco-friendly living. Humans get everything they need, and, instead of doing harm and depleting the local fauna and fauna, their activity positively enriches the local fauna and flora.

    Okay ?

    But this method or technique wouldn’t work in other places, for example conifer forests, where tree species cannot regenerate from a cut stump.

     

    #4545
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Hi Annie,

    That’s grim. I think there are several other tree diseases to worry about too

    #4547
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    Hi ulvfugl,

    I’ve been reading your comments at Nature Bats Last and I am very interested in learning more about your ancient forest.

    The greatest threat to trees is tropospheric ozone. Trees all over the world are dying because they are absorbing air pollution. Ozone damages their foliage, causing them to devote more energy to repair, and less to roots. Shriveled root systems make them more likely to blow over and more vulnerable to drought. Their immunity becomes weakened and they are finished off by attacks from fungus, disease, and insects.

    It’s been known for decades that ozone is also diminishing the yield and quality of agricultural crops, which we can ill afford on top of weather extremes from climate change. It’s also reducing the amount of seeds, nuts, berries and other food for wild animals, which is why the food chain is collapsing and they are starving and dying out.

    I wrote a little book with links to scientific research on this topic which can be downloaded for free from dropbox here: http://www.deadtrees-dyingforests.com/pillage-plunder-pollute-llc/

    and I add new information as it emerges to a blog at WitsEnd if you are interested.

    It’s a little known topic which partly has to do with the fact that ozone is invisible, it derives from complex chemical interactions after precursors are emitted into the atmosphere and react with UV radiation, and not least because the loss of trees poses an existential threat to humans in myriad ways, never a popular discussion over the dinner table.

     

    Gail

    #4548
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    More on this : One question: why does the forest need humanity to care for it? In my experience anything humanity comes in contact with is adversely effected.

     

    My starting point would be that for humanity to survive ( I don’t believe it will, but being hypothetical for a moment, let’s assume people wanted  to ) means finding a harmonious and viable relationship with our environment.

    That means, instead of polluting and destroying it, we cherish and foster it.

    It’s all very well to talk like that, lots of ‘greenies’ do, all the time. The hard part is, how to put it into practical action that is demonstrably positive and sustainable

    So, if we look at models that other organisms have evolved, we have wondrous examples of co-operation, symbiosis, commensalism, and so forth, like algae and fungi combining to form lichens, so that they can live in places which would be impossible for either of them independently.

    So, we can look at ourselves this way, from a God’s eye satellite.

    There’s a natural community, the forest and all the organisms that live in it. And nearby there’s a human community and all the people who live in it.

    So, what we need is a relationship between the two that provides mutual benefits, so that both can thrive. And here we have the example, where local humans have taken and used what they needed from the forest, whilst managing the forest in such a way that it’s complexity and biodiversity is increased rather than depleted.

    This is a proven system. It lasted for millennia. Once the principles are understood, it’s an example that could be replicated. Indeed it is being, to some extent.

    More later maybe.

    #4549
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

    Hi Gail, and thanks for coming here 🙂

    I’ve been reading your comments at Nature Bats Last and I am very interested in learning more about your ancient forest.

    Okay, ask me anything you want to.

    The greatest threat to trees is tropospheric ozone. Trees all over the world are dying because they are absorbing air pollution. Ozone damages their foliage, causing them to devote more energy to repair, and less to roots. Shriveled root systems make them more likely to blow over and more vulnerable to drought. Their immunity becomes weakened and they are finished off by attacks from fungus, disease, and insects.

    Sure. They are tough, but they get stressed and weakened by all sorts of adversity these days.

    It’s been known for decades that ozone is also diminishing the yield and quality of agricultural crops, which we can ill afford on top of weather extremes from climate change. It’s also reducing the amount of seeds, nuts, berries and other food for wild animals, which is why the food chain is collapsing and they are starving and dying out.

    Sure. As climate changes and thermoclines move, the whole ecology of large areas gets thrown out of sync. The migrating birds arrive and the annual insects they are accustomed to find, have already hatched, bred, and disappeared a week or two earlier, or are delayed by drought and hatch weeks too late, or the insects hatch but the trees are late because of some other factor and there’s no leaves for the insects, and so on and on. So systems that have taken centuries, millennia, to achieve a sort of dynamic balance, are faced with rapid changes that they cannot adapt to.

    I think we just have to face this and expect to observe accelerating ecological meltdown, just about everywhere. Totally horrible, from my perspective.

    I wrote a little book with links to scientific research on this topic which can be downloaded for free from dropbox here: http://www.deadtrees-dyingforests.com/pillage-plunder-pollute-llc/

    and I add new information as it emerges to a blog at WitsEnd if you are interested.

    Okay. Thankyou.

    It’s a little known topic which partly has to do with the fact that ozone is invisible, it derives from complex chemical interactions after precursors are emitted into the atmosphere and react with UV radiation, and not least because the loss of trees poses an existential threat to humans in myriad ways, never a popular discussion over the dinner table.

    Yes, traffic fumes, etc. I read once that tree and crop growth can be reduced as much as 10% by UV light we’re getting from the Ozone Hole in the upper atmosphere.

    The prevailing weather where I am comes in off the Atlantic, so any pollution has been diluted, so it’s not as bad as in many other places. There are rare lichens which are exceptionally sensitive to pollution, and the place is registered as a site of special scientific interest on that account, although as far as I am aware, nobody has ever been to look at them and check their condition in the 20+ years I’ve been here. I believe that, for some unknown reason, they are the responsibility of the British Museum, and I expect those folk are stressed out of their brains trying to cope with all the demands on their time and resources.

     

    #4566
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    Have you noticed a decline in your forest?  Here is what I find, everywhere I go:  rotting trunks with holes and splitting bark often stained from oozing fluid, injured foliage or yellowing needles, thin transparent crowns, broken branches, and many completely dead trees both fallen and standing.  Also the understory is dying out – the laurels and dogwoods etc, and even lower, the ferns and other plants.

    The lichen are fascinating.  They are known to be wiped out by pollution however a few actually thrive in high levels of nitrogen.  There seem to be two in particular that are proliferating at unholy rates of growth, one the green shield and the other is called old man’s beard or some such thing, it looks hairy.  There are lots of pictures of them on my blog.  Do you still have a variety in your forest?  Do you see a spread of those two?

    Also the problem with ozone as I see it (tropospheric not stratospheric) is that although the high peaks have been in many places reduced, the constant background level is increasing everywhere.  So in prehistoric days it might have been 0 – 15 ppb, now it is 40 and above even on remote and isolated places, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.  Not very many people realize that it’s increasing in concentration, but it has been well documented by academic researchers and NASA among other sources.  Of course the air quality regulations designate 1 – 50 ppb as “good” and don’t even distinguish any difference between 10 and 40, and the level is set for human health, not forest health.

    Humans are more resilient than plants – scientists have determined the threshold is 40 ppb for vegetation, and that is where we have been for several years as precursors travel across oceans and continents.  The plants never get relief from the persistent concentration to repair the damage, which isn’t just from transportation but also coal plants and methane that is escaping melting permafrost and no one knows what the fugitive emissions from fracking are but it could be quite high.  Also biofuels produce yet a different chemical soup that creates peroxyacetyl nitrates (PAN), highly irritating to plants.

    I think it’s actually quite important that this is going on because, unlike the close parallel to the equally tragic bleaching of corals from ocean acidification, more people have an opportunity and affinity for trees.  Tree lovers, if educated about this threat, could form a powerful lobby to reduce pollution before all the trees are dead.  This includes people who just like things that come from trees – fruit and nuts and lumber and paper and shade and oxygen.

    But it would require trees lovers to understand themselves how serious ozone is and how widespread its effects, which is why I go on and on about it.

    Gail

     

    #4583
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Hi Gail,

    Thinking about Tom’s original question. Why management ?

    It’s like a zen koan. Thing is, any piece of the planet’s surface is perfectly fine being left alone.

    It’s probably better off being left alone. I think there should be zones that people never enter.

    However, now that we’ve messed everything up, and find that there is a tiny remnant, an oasis, a little patch of what once was, I think it would be irresponsible not to observe it very closely, and intervene if required to do so.

    There’s a few other places like that. Meadows with very rare orchids, marshes with very rare butterflies, the last remaining refuges of species that were once widespread. The ecosystems they need are dependent on human intervention. Hay meadows have to be cut annually at the exact right time of year, after the flowers have seeded, or they stop being hay meadows and become scrub, then woodland. These ecosystems are not, strictly speaking, natural. They are a product of human practices over many centuries, when work was done by human and animal labour. They sort of stabilised, as a co-evolved complex system, with humans as one of the inputs, so to speak.

    All those practices have gone, replaced by modern intensive farming based on oil. The longer we can keep these rare species going, the greater chance they have of surviving the bottleneck. Without human intervention they’d mostly have gone already.

    It’s an impossible task really, but still worth doing, IMO. There’s rare flowers than only grow in the ruts of cartwheels in boggy ground. No carts anymore, no ruts, means someone has to make ruts for no other purpose than to preserve those somewhat inconspicuous little green things, so that they don’t vanish forever… there’s very odd little freshwater shrimp things, that have been around for hundreds of millions of years, that require a similar environment, the water filled hoof prints of cattle or horses… the list goes on and on. Once you break the ecology, the whole thing starts to unravel.

    Anyway. it’s twenty years since I was involved with that forest. I don’t know what the situation there is now, but I have woodland of my own, and am bounded by neighbouring woodland classified as semi-natural ancient woodland. ( Ancient woodland here is a formal classification, it means forest that was shown on maps if 1600 or earlier ).

    Yes, I often see trees that have diseases. I think it is very hard to tell what the cause is though.

    My impression is that all the old trees here are living and dying simultaneously. They have dead and broken and rotting branches, but they sprout new growth and keep on going. the biggest die off I have observed was in the summer of 1976, which was a drought, and many very old trees died. They’d obviously survived many hard periods before, some were maybe 150 years old, but that drought was too much for them. I have not seen anything similar since. The oak and ash trees around me flourish. The ash particularly are amazingly vigorous, and new seedlings grow everywhere at an astonishing rate.

    Yes, the lichens. I have some photos of the commonest forms, I’ll put them here when I get around to it, but there are some really bizarre big ones I have not photographed, like patches of seaweed. I’m always intending to research them, but never managed so far. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been any noticeable changes since I have been here. When I was in that forest, I photographed a lot of tree trunks, as a record for future reference.

    I must say, I do admire your efforts, Gail. Where I’m living, the human pressure on the environment is quite low, because of low population density, but the sea and streams get polluted by farm fertiliser and sheep dip, and there’s nothing that can be done about climate changing, the seasons are getting crazier all the time, exceptionally mild in the middle of winter, everything starts to grow as if it was spring, birds beginning to nest before Christmas, i had a rose come into blossom at Christmas, which was very odd, then it gets very cold, and they all get set back, then very very wet all through the summer… I’ve done more than 60 Welsh summers and winters, so I have a fairly good feel for what’s ‘normal’, or what was normal….

     

    #4584
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Oh, another thought. Britain is the most intensely studied place on the planet. Naturalists started recording and studying stuff earlier than anywhere else. But, isn’t it amazing, there’s still new things found occasionally. A professional entomologist said that he wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear of a new species of fly being found, he expects there to be many as yet unrecorded. I found something called a horse-hair worm. Took me a long time to find out what it was, and it turned out it is the only damn creature here with it’s own phylum ! And nobody knows anything about them… I find that incredible. We’ve got 60 million people on this island, and nobody has been sufficiently interested to devote some time and effort to finding out about these weird horse-hair worms and what they do and how they fit into the ecology… I am a strange and eccentric man, I freely admit, but wtf is wrong with humans that they have no interest in the world that surrounds them ?

    #4585
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster
    #4597
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    I was up and awake through the small hours, with the front door open. First bird call was the tawny owl hooting as it went to it’s sleeping place in a Leylandii tree after the night’s hunting.

    Then a robin. Since then there’s been ravens, buzzards, jackdaw, jay, magpie and red kites, and gold finches.

    #4634
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Interesting article on British forests..

    The Sherwood syndrome
    We picture ancient Britain as a land of enchanted forests. That’s a fantasy: axes have been ringing for a very long time

    #4637
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    I went to the New Forest in, I think, 2006 – before I realized that trees are dying.  I was horribly disappointed.  I expected it to be dark, dense and verdant – instead there were huge gaps in the canopy from dead trees, the ground was impassable, there were many nasty vines and it was hot.

    Although I’m not surprised to read that much of England was cut over time – the mere fact that the New Forest was planted 1,000 years ago tells you that it didn’t exist anymore – that doesn’t explain why trees shouldn’t continue to thrive.  Squirrels are a new one for me!

    Have you ever seen Packenham’s book, “Meetings With Remarkable Trees”?  I put a bunch of his photographs here:  http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2011/11/freedoms-just-another-word.html

    I would dearly love to know how they are doing today.

    Thank you for the lovely pictures.  I can see a bit of lichen on the first, but isn’t the dark green moss?  I’m not an expert, obviously!

    #4638
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Hi Gail,

    The term ‘forest’ didn’t originally mean an area covered in trees, it was just an area reserved for the King or other Nobles to hunt deer, so much of it could have been free of trees.

    The New Forest is a special case, not really typical, because of history and so forth.

    Yes, I was once very naive about forests. I had imagined lots of good forests in Britain, trees as far as the eye could see, sort of thing. I went to the Forest of Dean expecting that. Instead, I found small patches of trees, intersected with lots of roads and houses and towns, a few really fantastic areas of very old trees, but also lots of recent plantations. It was a shock.

     

    Oliver Rackham’s books are all wonderful, his research into the history is full of amazing stuff, although I do wonder about some if his idiosyncratic conclusions.

    The grey squirrels have killed quite a few of my trees. They strip the bark. They are an American squirrel, released here about a century ago, that has multiplied and spread, pushing out the indigenous native red squirrel, which did much less damage.

    Yes, I’ve seen that book, thanks for the link.

    I have better photos of lichen, just havn’t got around to finding them yet. But those pics show the typical thing, lots of moss, because it rains a lot here.

     

    #4639
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    You think American squirrels are bad – you should have to contend with Canadian thistle!  It’s HORRIBLE.  But while we’re onto squirrels…skwerly plan to overthrow the world exposed here, with recipes and more:  http://www.scarysquirrel.org/page1.html

    #4694
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    Here’s a post about lichens with some research about their relation to the nitrogen cascade:  http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2011/12/harvard-forest-being-eaten-alive-by.html

    I took these pictures a few days ago on Cape Cod.  It’s just astonishing how fast they are spreading.  Every tree in and around this parking lot was festering with lichen, some trunks completely obliterated!

     

     

    #4696
    WitsEnd
    Participant

    Hm sorry, files too large.  I’ll try with just one picture – and I’m going to post them on my blog one of these days.

    #4712
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

    Hi Gail,

    Sorry about that, I do appreciate your contributions here, WordPress is infuriating sometimes.

    Perhaps you can reduce the file sizes ? I did try once to increase the limit, but the damn thing didn’t take any notice of what I told it….

    #4827
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    “Tropical forests provide habitat for most of the world’s known terrestrial plant and animal species. These ecosystems are under increasing threat worldwide. During the last decades, several millions of hectares of humid tropical forest were lost each year. Despite the proliferation of new remote sensing technologies, information about the status of world’s forest is limited and unevenly distributed.

    The immense task of protecting for future generations and adequate share of world’s remaining forest is outside the reach of traditional conservation strategies alone. It calls for collective action to complement existing initiatives.”

     

    http://forestwatchers.net/

    #4832
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

    The phrase “organized crime” typically conjures up images of drug trafficking or stolen-car rings. But it turns out that the illegal logging trade is just as lucrative — and far more destructive. Between 50 to 90 percent of forestry in tropical areas is now controlled by criminal groups, according to a new report (pdf) from the United Nations and Interpol.

    Citizens in Mexico organize militias to defend against woodcutting bandits. (Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP/Getty Images)

    Across the globe, deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, responsible for one-fifth of humanity’s emissions. Farming and logging both play big roles. What makes this area so difficult to regulate, however, is that a great deal of logging simply takes place illegally — much of it in tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. The U.N. estimates that illicit logging is now worth between $30 billion to $100 billion, or up to 30 percent of the global wood trade.

    These rogue lumberjacks are growing more sophisticated, evading the efforts of countries to crack down. For instance, in the mid-2000s, it appeared as if illegal logging was on the wane in countries such as Indonesia, thanks to stepped-up law enforcement. But the numbers were deceptive. Illicit logging was either migrating to other tropical nations — such as Papua New Guinea or Myanamar — or simply eluding detection.

     

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/10/02/report-most-tropical-deforestation-now-caused-by-the-mafia/

     

    #4879
    annie
    Participant

    Tree Lore: (Sacred Trees)

    Tree lore is a suspected ancient school of knowledge with roots stretching back into our earliest symbolic imaginations. The Tree is a common universal, archetypal symbol that can be found in many different traditions around the ancient world. Trees are symbols of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth, union and fertility. The tree is a spiritual motif and framework, a map of conception and consciousness that brings together the temporal worlds of time, space and consciousness.  Trees are the places of birth and death; they are used as sacred shrines and places of spiritual pilgrimage, ritual, ceremony and celebration. Sacred trees are found in the Shamanic, Hindu, Egyptian, Sumerian, Toltec, Mayan, Norse, Celtic and Christian traditions. The World-tree is described in The Upanishads as “a tree eternally existing, its roots aloft, its branches spreading below.”

    http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/treelore.htm

    #5337
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    Monbiot, Heart Rot.

    #5420
    ulvfugl
    Keymaster

     

    So, all our ash trees are going to die, and the Gvt. does nothing ?

     

    http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/pest-alert-ash-dieback-2012.pdf/$FILE/pest-alert-ash-dieback-2012.pdf

    #5533
    judith
    Member

    your reference to organized crime and deforestation is a good opening for this:

    #5561
    annie
    Participant

    India’s first Conservationists

    Try to name a widely practiced  faith or religion that is built on the holism of nature. Not a religion that also emphasises concern for nature; there are many. But one that is wholly and solely devoted to nature, and to conservation as the pivot of human life.

    You will find one, -not in the bucolic splendour of some green valley, where nature may seduce you to love her- , but in the arid, desolation of north-western India where nature requires a struggle by man to even survive. In this unlikely region will you find those nature-lovers, the Bishnoi folk!

    Jambaji.

    For over half a millennium, the Bishnois have evolved their life-style into a religion that fiercely protects the environment. It is not a religion that has a heritage of myths, miracles, a book, ornate temples or priests. The Bishnois, estimated to be around 6 million, spread over Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, are a practical, wise people who hold lessons for everyone.

    Founder Jambaji born in 1451, cleverly packaged a set of 29 rules by which his followers must live. He was born in Nagaur, Rajasthan, in a Rajput clan, given to warring and conquests. He saw poverty and social discord. Convinced that man can succeed only by taking care of nature, and not by coveting the fruits of another man’s labours, Jambaji walked the barren wilds of Rajasthan, showing how man can live in peace even in those lands, provided he cared.

    Never cut a green tree, but wait for a tree to age and die and then use it as timber. Bury your dead simply, so that the earth assimilates the flesh – and  you save too, the wood needed for a casket or a cremation. Practice cleanliness and a high level of hygiene, for these will guard you from disease. Protect wildlife – they too play a role in maintaining soil fertility and in holding the balance of harmful and beneficial life forms. Conserve water for use by man and animals, by building tanks everywhere. Of course, practice vegetarianism and be addicted to nothing – alcohol, tobacco or even tea! Do not expect or seek, alms or subsidy, from king or government; believe in self-help! Let women, those founts of life, wear bright clothes of red or orange and the men white, as a symbol of undiluted devotion to the faith. If ever you must choose to be violent, may it be in defense of a tree, an animal or your convictions; for this, even embrace death with cheer.

    29 rules.

    Such was Jambaji’s list of rules to live by, totaling 29 in all. From that number 20 [bis] plus 9 [no], comes the name of the religion. You can hardly find a more secular creed than that! And the Bishnois have been true to their master’s wishes. You can see them, living their values, in several villages near Jodhpur. The mud floors are plastered with cow dung to keep vermin away. The interiors are airy and clean. Men, women and children exude robust good health. There is a granary to guard their rations, and a sump for stored water . There is an easy paced dignity to life here.

    Throughout their long history, they have shown their readiness to die for their beliefs. The most celebrated episode took place as recently as 1730 in the village of Kejarli, near Jodhpur. The land around this village was, as it is today, makes for a pitiless landscape. Scant rainfall allows but four months of farming. People share the grains they raise with animals in need. Central to their lives is the kejri tree [prosopis cineraria], which is almost the only tree that rises to some height, yielding shade, fodder and ultimately some timber. Gazelles and black-buck roam with abandon, confident that the folks all around are the loving kind. Peacocks amble with leisure.

    Defiance and devotion.

    To this scene, in 1730, the ruler Raja Abhaya Singh sent his soldiers to fell trees for the fort he was building. He needed fuel for his limestone kiln. Amrita Devi, stood in the way. She explained to the soldiers the importance of trees to their faith and survival. Then she argued. A crowd soon gathered and joined her in dissuading the soldiers. When everything failed and the loggers began their preparations, Amrita Devi hugged a tree and asked them to cut her before they cut the tree! And lo, it was done! A shocked and outraged crowd, was roused to action. One by one, they followed Amrita Devi, hugged a tree, dared the king’s men and were cut dead. The carnage continued; an unending line of Bishnois choosing to die for their love of trees and nature. When a bewildered king finally arrived at the scene and stopped his men, 363 lay dead.  Silence enveloped the moment with eloquence. There is  probably no parallel to this, in the history of conservation.

    Today, in Kejarli there is an eerily silent orchard and a small temple in it, to commemorate the day those 363 Bishnois engraved a message in the conscience of mankind.

    Inspiration to others.

    And all of India too, seems to be continually inspired by the Bishnoi martyrs . Some believe Mahatma Gandhi, himself hailing  from near these parts, realised how simple folk were ready to offer resistance and even court death, when they believed strongly in something. And how all authority and power must quake in the face of such resistance.  His civil disobedience and satyagraha ideas, as  means to fight the British, may have drawn on Kejarli. More recently, Sundarlal Bahuguna of Garhwal, UP borrowed from the Bishnois to fashion his tree protection programme, called the ‘chipko’. Chipko means, ‘cling to’.

    The saga of Kejarli is neither the first, nor the last example of Bishnois roused to action in defense of nature. The 1600s too has records of Bishnoi men, women and children dying for their cause. More recently, in 1998 a current cinema star, Salman Khan experienced the Bishnoi storm. This man, who almost proves the axiom that a good looking actor must also be brainless, was in a Jodhpur hotel in connection with a film. A local hanger-on suggested a ‘hunt’. Our hero’s masculinity was roused, but within the bound’s of his inherent cowardliness; he chose the dark night, and as simple farmers slept everywhere in their huts, this lout  entered  Bishnoi country, took aim at a trusting black-buck, and pulled the trigger. Within seconds of the gun shot, Bishnois were spilling out of their beds like minutemen. The hero panicked and bolted in his jeep. But by then, a Bishnoi had identified it as belonging to a tour operator he knew. An army of Bishnois marched to Jodhpur next day, tracked down the vehicle, followed the trail and laid siege to the hotel where Salman Khan stayed. The police and the government, astonished at the speed and ferocity of the Bishnoi reaction, swung into action and registered a case. It is another story that the case drags on. And, it would have been yet another story again, had the Bishnois caught hold of the actor; they would have lynched this vacuous prince charming without mercy.

    Such are the Bishnois! So gentle that that their women are known to suckle orphaned baby-deer, and yet fearless of blood-letting if it came to defending their faith!

    #5562
    annie
    Participant

    #5563
    annie
    Participant
    #5566
    annie
    Participant

    “Struggle is the highest form of song.” Howard Zinn

    http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Howard-Zinn-Speaks-Paperback

    #5567
    annie
    Participant

    “TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
    What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
    And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
    ― Howard Zinn

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