The wisdom of Dr Vandana Shiva has been the greatest influence on the last nine years of my journey here at Bealtaine Cottage.
Inspired by her wisdom, I have planted hundreds of trees and experienced the sheer abundance, beauty and fertility as the land is restored through planting…almost 900 trees to date.
I am passionate about trees, planting trees, nurturing trees and creating a permaculture smallholding around them.
Vandana was greatly moved by the destruction of the great forests of the Himalaya.
“Logging had led to landslides and floods, and scarcity of water, fodder, and fuel.
Since women provide these basic needs, the scarcity meant longer walks for collecting water and firewood, and a heavier burden.
In the 1970s, peasant women from my region in the Garhwal Himalaya had come out in defence of the forests.
Women knew that the real value of forests was not the timber from a dead tree, but the springs and streams, food for their cattle, and fuel for their hearths.
The women declared that they would hug the trees, and the loggers would have to kill them before killing the trees.
A folk song of that period said:
These beautiful oaks and rhododendrons,
They give us cool water
Don’t cut these trees
We have to keep them alive.”
Vandana goes on to explain the consequences of this brutality against Mother Earth…for there are always consequences, of that we can be sure…
“In 1973, I had gone to visit my favourite forests and swim in my favourite stream before leaving for Canada to do my Ph.D.
But the forests were gone, and the stream was reduced to a trickle.”
Vandana documents the origins of the Chipko Movement, one that was birthed by the women themselves as they struggled and resisted to protect the forests…
“One of the dramatic Chipko actions took place in the Himalayan village of Adwani in 1977, when a village woman named Bachni Devi led resistance against her own husband, who had obtained a contract to cut trees.
When officials arrived at the forest, the women held up lighted lanterns although it was broad daylight.
The forester asked them to explain.
He retorted, “You foolish women, how can you prevent tree felling by those who know the value of the forest?
Do you know what forests bear?
They produce profit and resin and timber.”
The women sang back in chorus:
What do the forests bear?
Soil, water, and pure air.
Soil, water, and pure air
Sustain the Earth and all she bears.
The full text of this essay by Dr Vandana Shiva, can be found at:
The 3 acres of gardens at Bealtaine Cottage are fertile.
I have no animals.
Heavy machinery is not allowed on the land.
Here in Ireland, where the tree cover is the lowest in Europe, chemical fertilizers are spread each year.
That is because the land is depleted of what it needs for fertility.
It is heavily compacted by animals and machines.
The air is pushed out of it.
The landscape, once covered by Oak forest, is now bereft of trees.
It is imperative, that we move away from the desolation of monoculture, towards maximum biodiversity, as fast as is possible.
Mother Earth will continue…but if we fail to grasp the importance of trees in our environment…then, without us!
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