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It was probably around thirty years ago that I went to a basement apartment near Harvard Square for a presentation by two people visiting from Auroville, a religious community and ecovillage near Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, India.  The man and woman talked about their work planting trees and reforesting the area.  They showed slides, focusing on a method they derived by trial and error to provide water for their saplings by molding bunds, small catchment basins just downslope from the tree to gather rainwater so that it could soak down into the roots.  They talked about following erosion gullies upslope to where they began and using stones and pebbles to stop the erosion at the source.  They said that after more than a decade of work, the weather had noticeably changed in the region and the seasonal rains had returned.

How did we get into this mess?
A little bit at a time and because everybody does it.
We get out of it just
that same way.
4/23/01  John Berry, in conversation

I think about this as I plant my garden.  I remember John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed;  Jean Giono's story of Elzéard Bouffier, "The Man Who Planted Trees;"  John Todd's vision to restore the devastated mountains of Appalachia.  I think about ecological design instead of geoengineering, the small seeds planted and tended over time with modesty and patience rather than the heroic technology of global scale for immediate results and long-term unintended consequences.  

One of my favorite videos is this short piece on Greening the Desert, a permaculture installation in Jordan near the Dead Sea.  It reaffirms my faith in the idea that "You Can Fix All the World's Problems in a Garden."

Greening the Desert Follow-Up, Six Years After the Funding Ran Out

"The Man Who Planted Trees" is Jean Giono's allegorical story of a shepherd who plants a forest.  It is beautifully written and, unfortunately, fiction.  You can read it in English
and en Français or watch the Academy Award winning animation.

John Todd's Ecological Design for Appalachia won the first Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge.  He proposes using biological waste treatment to clean up coal slurry and tree planting and biomass production to restore the landscape and provide jobs.

One Man Creates a Forest in India shows that what Giono imagined can happen in reality.  Abdul Karim is a living Elzéard Bouffier

Auroville is still planting trees and you can help build their Sadhana Forest.

There is also the Green Belt Movement in Africa founded by Wangari Maathai.

Trees for the Future promotes tree planting all around the world.

Arbor Day varies from state to state but usually happens in April.

crossposted to,,, and

Originally posted to gmoke on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 07:13 PM PDT.


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