Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Why do we have to plant trees?

Today my students and I planted indigenous Philippine trees on the University of the Philippines common.

Why do we have to plant a tree? Martin Luther, the great Reformer was heard to have said "If God revealed to me that the world will end today, I will still plant a little apple tree". The Confucian sages adviced that a man wouldn't had lived a full life if he did not 1) sire a son, 2) plant a tree.

For Luther and the sages a tree represents life beyond one's own and we pray that this life will be full of hope. Like your children, trees are likely to survive you. An English saying has it best "When the tree is tall and wide, the planter has long died". The man has joined the elements and the tree remains.

The oldest trees are conifers. The Bristlecone pines, cypresses in the Sahara and some southern araucaria pines in Australia, Chile and New Zealand are thousand of years old. The trees have their memory of their environment in their rings.

Trees provide us with wood and for us to have wood, we have to chop them down. Thus they provide us with service and wealth. But for every tree that is cut, a new one must be planted. But a tree takes years to provide us with quality wood and fruit, or even what we take most for granted; shade.

Trees have the memory of time. Have we the same? In the 21st century we want to have it all fast. A tree can remind us of what good can come with the passage of time.

Nonetheless, the lesson for today is it is harder to plant and care for a tree than to chop one down. My students found it difficult to dig the hole in the ground, on thin soil for their trees.

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