Trees, Grasses and Humans
Few people realize how much of our food comes from grass. Wheat, Sugar, Rice and Corn are forms of grasses. Animals we depend upon for food, such as meat, eggs and milk, produce that after consuming grass.
Grass as bamboo is an excellent building material. In fact more research is needed for construction of human dwellings based on a structure of bamboo combined with minimal use of wood, plastered with mud, inner walls covered with wallpaper made of grass and the outer surfaces covered in waterproof paint. Floors may be made of jute matting and roofs out of clay tiles and solar panels. One need not avoid cement, steel and glass completely but all of them use copious amounts of energy for their production and it is wise to minimize their use. With proper design such a hybrid building can be just as strong and elegant while being much greener.
Just as humans stand out amongst oxygen breathing life forms, the tree stands out in the plant world. Trees as a food source have not yet been fully utilized by humans. Besides the nuts and fruits that trees produce, many types of tree leaves are edible and nutritious. One such tree – the drumstick tree has been discussed in an earlier post. Tree leaves can produce much fodder for diary animals as an alternative to grass.
While cities have been expanding on our planet forests, and grass lands have been shrinking. Cities and towns need not have been designed like that; there are examples of towns where the forest and tree cover exceeds constructed space. A Himalayan town – Nainital described in this blog is one such. However, unfortunately even here the proportion of green space has reduced considerably over the last five decades. The adjoining photo is from Nainital captured earlier this year.
All life forms green or otherwise depend on fresh water for their survival and it is trees that are most helpful in attracting clouds from the oceans and causing their even distribution on land.
It has been mentioned earlier in this blog that plants are living things too. Hayden has put up an interesting post on that recently. Plants have life just as we do and their life form too is based on genes and chromosomes like us. Some of the genes are even common between humans and plants. They are a complimentary life form that breathes carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, while animals and humans breathe in oxygen, producing carbon dioxide as waste. An imbalance is created whenever one life form such as humans begins to destroy the green side of life such as forests and grasslands replacing them with cemented and paved urban spaces and roads. Replacing grass lands with farms is not such a bad thing provided portions are reserved for trees but replacing grass lands or forests with barren land or paved spaces is to strip mother earth naked or dress her in a garment of steel and cement so that birds and squirrels may no longer play in her bosom. Our subconscious mind knows that, and therefore it is not surprising that many humans derive immense peace and joy in wild green surroundings as compared to urban landscapes. Neither life form can survive without the other. It is true that there are humans that derive little pleasure from nature preferring cityscapes. But then ancient philosophers have said that creation is an interplay of opposites, light and dark, good and evil, the destructive and the creative. One ancient text from India states that evil humans are born to destroy the world just as the good ones are born to nurture it.
Trees are effective in capturing any surplus carbon in the atmosphere. In my view, pressing for a reduction in carbon emissions is not an effective route. That is something that will happen on its own as fossil fuels are exhausted or become expensive and alternative sources of energy become viable. A more fruitful approach to my mind is to press for increasing forests and grasslands on our planet.
Undoubtedly nature is powerful enough to restore balance eventually but that restoration may be painful. A wiser course is to make attempts towards restoring the balance voluntarily to avoid much of that pain. As an average human, some of the contributions we can make in this direction are to plant a tree whenever possible while at the same time voicing our concern so that it is heard by governments and others. A citizen can even take a pledge that he would only vote for a party that promises to spend atleast one fifth (or some other such number arrived at after consideration) of its defense budget to increase green cover. To care for the environment is an expression of love for the planet we live on. Spiritually it is an eminent thing to do. It expresses our interconnectedness with all life and the universe.