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Nº 60 – Money or Life?

Saturday, the 7th of November 2020

That is indeed the question. We are rapidly approaching the end of the year 2020; in fact, here we are in November already. Now, I don’t want to say that time is of the essence; on the contrary, good ideas always take time to sprout and grow inside us. And, more often than not, their weaknesses become apparent when it comes to implementing them. So, hands up anyone who has a good idea every single day. I believe we should at least act consistently and have a good idea every week. I do feel that in this sense, 2020 may be a truly refreshing and vital year. Everything is in flux, on the move, even though you have to stay put, a prisoner within your own four walls. The economy, as we know, is all about unlimited growth on a limited planet. How can people be so daft as to believe this kind of thing? Presumably, with this never-ending mantra of growth ringing in our ears, we have lost direction. Many of us are all of a sudden realising that growth is not about the economy at all, but rather it is something that can be applied to humans: personal, intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth, for instance, allowing our own personality to grow. When you grow personally, everything material and outside you shrinks in equal proportion, your footprint for instance. And I don’t mean to say that you should buy new shoes because your feet have shrunk overnight.

Against the backdrop of a hot summer, the hottest since meteorologists started keeping records, the question that arises is by no means only about what’s been achieved on the way towards CO2 reduction and carbon neutrality, but most of all about how things are done, how the old is thrown out and the new invited in, and how the foundations for all this may be built. This is about ways and means, and about the shape that each of our activities takes. A lockdown, as it were, may help us to switch on both our heads and hearts and to come up with new ideas, to make good New Year’s resolutions, and then act, act, act on them. NOW.

Right now, we might call into question whether humanity will be able to preserve its forests at all. Some of us are logging, others are reforesting. Those who engage in reforesting are part of a group that could do with growing some more, thank you very much. But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. This is about how, what and where humans are reforesting for instance, and when they stop the logging. We have to turn deforestation into an unattractive proposition, and provide incentives for forestation. Both of these at the same time. I hear that Zurich University has launched a project for the planting of a billion trees. In theory. Let’s think about this properly now. A billion trees. You may build a billion cars and carry on as before. But what is this nonsense of wanting to plant a billion trees! Eucalyptus? Acacias? Could we not consider mixed forests by any chance, forests that we wouldn’t cut down again straight away, so that we can turn them into money? While one billion sounds like a huge number, it is once more a linear idea put forward by old men. It’s not quantity that’s the issue here. The secret of our forests lies in each and every tree and in each and every one of us. It’s not for nothing that trees (and friendships) grow from the bottom up rather than the other way round. Any project needs its roots and humus – good soil for something to thrive in. Make friends with a tree, rather than with Facebook.

I, for one, would like to use the short space I have available to me here efficiently, and I offer up a solution, or at least suggest a new approach. Let’s put our heads together and think about how every one of us can plant their own tree and look after it, for the first five years of its life at least. Every tree needs our sympathy, our empathy, our mindfulness. Soon we will be eight billion humans on this planet where space is becoming scarce. If you aren’t yet grounded in that particular way, talk to friends who have a garden or maybe a derelict, abandoned plot of land (from the days of their grandparents): that’s where you could plant your very own tree. Now in November is a good time, the moon is in a favourable position. It is going to rain; the soil will be soft and moist. The ideal time and opportunity for planting a tree is NOW. And you will be doing something very worthwhile, not least for your own self. This is an excellent way to stay healthy, breathing in fresh air and keeping the coronavirus at bay. Stick with it.

If you too have a good idea to share, drop me a line at editor@eco123.info

Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123.
Translations : Dina Adão, John Elliot, Kathleen Becker

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