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December 2021 Newsletter

The Forest Way

A photo essay

Most wonderful wishes and best regards to all, for the start of a fresh, healthy, environmental favoured and flavoured new year!

We are happy to share with you some pictures from the year past, together with some news – some good and some bad – from the life and endeavors of The Forest Way.

Always grateful for all your support and faith in us,

Enjoy the peek and stay in touch!


Good friends we’ve lost

The Covid wave which devastated India this spring/summer also hit close to home, for all of us at The Forest Way. Many lost close relatives and dear ones. Individually and as an institution, we struggled to keep up with the unfolding needs of the situation, as health services were stretched to breaking point. Efforts to mitigate the worst of the situation through community health provisions did not save three long-time staff members…

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A Tree Planting Update

I begin this post with an apology. I have posted only sporadically this past year, and the reason is not Covid as one might think. No, it’s simply that writing repeatedly about environmental, social and energy topics over the past several years, it seems like every little bit of progress on any of these fronts is wiped out by news headlines on events in politics, business or the weather. The actions any of us take to combat these developments always seem like too little and too late, so I learned to accept one possibility: that the world as a whole will not wake up to action until the planet is undoubtedly, unequivocally in peril; and then everyone will come together and frantically decide on measures that could have, should have, been taken decades ago. The Covid pandemic is a case in point; and the recent spate of droughts, wildfires and floods in many countries is another.

So here we are finally at a point where the world is waking up and ready to take action. At this juncture I would like to highlight the work of a small community of people working in a small village near the town of Tiruvannamalai in South India who have been working and learning and teaching and playing and planting in exemplary fashion for the past decade and more. Today, instead of writing my own blog, I’ve decided to simply post their tree planting update with photographs. I hope you find their post as inspiring as I did. Read on below:

Dear friends,
Greetings from Tiruvannamalai.Hope you are all doing well. We have been blessed this year to receive lots of rain from June itself and we have been actively involved in this season’s tree planting. We have completed the planting of more than 8000 trees in 7 locations which include 4 Eri bunds and upper slopes, on the hill, in the plains around the hill etc. We will be continuing the work in the weeks to come.
This year’s planting has had a different focus. One of the senior members of our team Shyam, attended an ecology course on native trees in Auroville and came back with a passion for evergreen tree species of the Eastern ghats. We have always planted indigenous trees of this region and over the years our nursery has produced more than 180 native species. While we continue with the same we have brought special focus on the Evergreens.
Here is Shyam’s brief write up on the evergreen patch:
The idea to have an evergreen patch came from most trees on the hill being deciduous and the hill looking quite barren in summer. Plus our recent planting places mostly had some tough evergreens surviving as most deciduous species are heavily grazed by deer leaving them stunted, to grow back to only be stunted again grazing. ( One of the outcomes of our successful afforestation has been the sharp rise in spotted deer population) The evergreen species are fast disappearing as more and more forests are being destroyed, so to find a home to these species was enticing and is very critical for the survival of these species. Many of them are already on the Red list of the IUCN. Obviously the dream is to imagine an evergreen canopy sometime in the future that may be our children will walk around even in summer times. So the idea was to plant tough faster growing evergreens that will eventually provide the conditions for other species usually found in more mature forests to grow in and eventually regenerate. We also tried planting a small number of saplings of species that were non-existent on the hill in an effort to introduce them. These were planted in selected places with good soil  and canopy conditions hoping to maximise their survival chances. 
Various strategies were tried out to improve their survival chances and to aid faster growth to clear the height the deer can reach, some are 1. Selecting a place with good soil and canopy cover conditions 2. Digging deeper pits and filling them back with a compost + top soil mix which helps with better moisture retention and root penetration 3. Making tree guards for few saplings of newly introduced trees that are prone to grazing 4. Making bunds with rocks from around to help with water percolation, top soil piling up from upper slope 5. Planting in direct/partial sun or even in very shaded spots based on their preferred growing conditions 6. Planting some taller saplings in bigger bags for species that need a tree guard as the bigger root systems will help them grow faster past the grazing height
We have planted around 700 saplings in this section so far. Around 90 saplings belong to species that aren’t found on hill at any stage and around 500 belong to species that preexist on the hill in a sapling stage. 
Here are the names of some of the species :
Aglaia elaeagnoidea
Drypetes sepiaria
Diospyros ovalifolia
Drypetes porteri
Diospyros chloroxylon
Chionanthes zeylenica
Chionanthes ramniflorus
Neolitsea scrobiculata
Pleurostylia opposita
Streblus asper
Memecylon umbellatum
Heterophragma adenophyllum
Polyalthia suberosa
Polyalthia korinti
Tricalysia
Psydrax
Putranjiva
Diospyros montana
Ficus microcarpa
Pleurospermum alatum
Celtis Phillipesis
Litsea glutinosa
Nothopegea beddomei
Manilkara roxburghiana
Manilkara hexandra
Pamburus missionis
Polyalthia coffeoides
Miliusa eriocarpa
Miliusa montana
Diospyros affinis
Diospyros melanoxylon
Ficus mysorensis
Ficus annamalayana
Ficus exasperata
Ficus tinctoria
Salvadora persica
Alphonsea sp.

The whole Marudam team with children, teachers and even parents have joined in a lot of the planting programmes and it has been an occasion to rejoice. 

We will end with wishes for a green and healthy planet.
Warm regards,

Arun

The Standoff explained: Modi government vs. Indian Small Farmers

The is basically a battle for the future of Indian agriculture. It is also a battle of two opposing philosophies: Small is Beautiful vs. Big is Better. On the one hand, 67% of India’s farmland is held by marginal farmers with holdings below 1 hectare. These farmers control 48% of irrigated land. On the other hand, 33% of farms are large, medium-sized or corporate holdings, and they control 52% of India’s irrigated land. It is important to remember this existing imbalance when considering the new laws.

Under the new law, a trader can approach any farmer anywhere in the country and buy their produce at any price that is agreed on. This may sound like a benefit for the farmer, but not when the buyer is a powerful corporation. In such situations, farmers will always be the weaker players. Indian farmers know it, and this is one of the reasons for their protests. The larger entities will always have the upper hand in case of disputes. The new law will also give large companies the freedom to accumulate stock of commodities and dictate terms to farmers. On a global scale, small-holder farmers provide 80% of our food on just 10% of arable land.

Add to the mix the fact that India’s two richest men, both reputedly close to Prime Minister Modi, have expressed interest in investments in the agricultural sector. In the US, for instance, the number of farmer suicides is twice the national average. As Sara Bissen writes in InsideOver, “Farmer suicide is in fact a universal reality with rates higher than non-farmers in almost every agricultural country. One only needs to look at France, India, Australia, or Japan.” Our lives depend on our food system. Large-scale agricultural practices degrade the world’s arable land and small-scale farms have the potential to redress climate change while securing global food supply.

The True Source of Wealth

Many years ago an economist friend told me to invest in stock index funds rather than property. He pointed out charts comparing property prices and real estate gains over a period of decades. Despite sudden sharp falls in stock values, the market always seemed to rebound after a few years or a decade and make up all its losses. I was swayed by that advice, but fortunately did not have enough disposable income to put that theory substantially to the test. I invested in an apartment and now, in retirement, consider myself fortunate not to have to worry about a roof over my head.

A nursery of trees that will clean air, bank carbon, retain rainwater, enrich
the earth, slow erosion, feed and shelter birds, and much more…

I look around at young people trying to find jobs, decide on a career, worry about whether they will find fulfilling occupations, or whether they can ever afford to start a family. At first glance, the odds seem stacked in favor of those whose parents left them with an inheritance; property or cash in the bank. The fragility of our economic systems and geopolitical power structures has increased considerably in 2020. A job in a bank, for example, does not seem as safe as it used to be, apart from the moral hazard of being involved in an exploitative business that has invested in fossil fuels and benefitted hugely from government handouts after nearly every crisis this century. There are no “safe” jobs any more, and the working world seems to be divided into two camps: those people with jobs who have to work increasing hours and work-life balance goes out of the window. They have money but no chance to have a life. The second camp consists of the unemployed who have time on their hands but don’t have a life either because they’re too worried about the future to enjoy the present. Somewhere between these two camps is a small minority of people who have just enough income to live a meaningful life!!!??? Of course that last statement is not true. Post-Covid, millions of people around the world, those with wealth and those without, are discovering that the best way to live a meaningful life is to go back to the earth and to nature.

Without the wealth of the earth, every business in the world is meaningless and doomed to fail in a matters of days, weeks, months or years. There is no need to elaborate on this theme. Here’s a list of apocalyptic movies that will educate you on what could lie in store for mankind if we don’t change our ways. The Day after Tomorrow, Mad Max Fury Road, Planet of the Apes, Nausicaa of the Valley, On the Beach, Independence Day, The Road… you get the idea. When it comes to possible futures, we’re only limited by our imagination. If there’s one thing the Covid crisis has done, it’s to trigger imaginations worldwide. Amidst all the hype about AI, high tech and new technologies that will save the world, there’s one underlying trend. People going back to the earth. Maybe we haven’t realized it yet, but that’s the true source of our planet’s wealth, and planetary heroes are the countless millions who work with soil, harvest our food crops and plant trees. Certainly not the multinational corporations that are responsible for the vast monocultural landscapes of the present day.

Tree cover nurtures all species of life and the earth itself

If only the bright minds inventing clever carbon sequestration technologies would rather invest in natural processes that restore the soil, the earth would grow richer, and all of us along with it.