written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Saturday, 29 February 2020

How Many More?

Thank you for joining me on another Saturday morning mind-ramble, and not just any Saturday but a once-in-four-years Leap Saturday. I recognise you may not be reading this on the morning I write it - but welcome anyway. I didn't blog last Saturday because I was away for a long week-end, but I did want to say something on the subject of trees and so I've hatched a cunning plan to roll last week's topic into this week's blog about experts. Voila! I hope the combination works.

Experts are supposed to know a lot of stuff about specific things, way more stuff than your everyday Tom, Dick or Harriet (that's us). That's why they're experts. We're also supposed to believe them precisely because they are the experts. So.... what to do when experts collide? As they do for instance over possible chemical pollution of a basic resource (I've just been to see Dark Waters). Or the likely causes and impacts of climate change/global warming. Both sets of experts can't be right. Do they misrepresent or exaggerate their claims? Is anybody downright lying to protect a vested interest? Almost certainly yes.

Take the Teflon-coated Du Pont company at the black heart of the afore-mentioned Dark Waters film. Their experts knew for decades that the chemicals used in their manufacturing plants were causing health issues (different types of cancers) for their workers; and that the toxic waste they were putting into landfills and pouring into waterways was having a similar impact on local populations - yet they covered it up and blatantly lied to the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Justice System. Dirty, dangerous, bastard experts in that instance! Go and see the movie. It's a terrific piece of film-making as well as being an eye-opener.

When it comes to  climate change, the best we can hope to do, I suggest, is make informed decisions based on empirical evidence. We live in a fragile eco-system and we're screwing it up. The world is getting warmer gradually and that trend is accelerating. It does appear to be related to increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the statistical models suggest bad things will happen on a large scale unless this man-made trend can be arrested. (Never mind that the 'leader of the free world' and his fossil-fuelled bankrollers are in denial.)

One answer, possibly the most effective according to experts, is to plant more trees. They will help to remove dangerously high levels of CO2 from the air. The CCC (Committee for Climate Change) and the Woodland Trust are advising us that in the UK alone (a tiny island on the edge of Europe) we will need to plant 1.5 billion trees if we are going to meet this country's CO2 reduction targets by 2050 - that's 1,500,000,000 in total, or 75 million every year. According to official DEFRA statistics we planted a mere 15 million trees in the last decade (most of them in Scotland) so a quantum leap is required. That 1.5 billion target works out at just over 200,000 every day for the next twenty years. That means we should already have planted 12 million since January 1st 2020 - and I bet we haven't even started yet!  It raises immediate questions for me: what sorts of trees (evergreen? or deciduous?) will be most effective? Where are these 200,000 saplings a day going to materialise from? Where is the land they are going to be planted on? How is it all to be funded? Call the experts. I look forward to the plan.

I have always loved trees. I grew up surrounded by date palms in Nigeria and we had banana and mango trees in our garden. On relocating aged five to England's much greener land I discovered the dangerous delights of laburnum, plus the usual apple and pear trees (my childhood gardens had all of these). When I was ten my father took me back to the farming town where he'd been born and showed me a towering horse-chestnut tree that he'd planted from a conker when he was nought but a lad himself.

Garden by Vincent Van Gogh
Even now in the jewel of the north I have a magnificent purple-flowering magnolia tree in my front garden and I'm planning to reconfigure my rather sparse back garden this coming year. There simply isn't the room to plant very many trees - much as I'd like a garden similar to the one in a favourite Van Gogh painting (a reproduction of which has hung in various kitchens of mine over three decades) but I'm determined to do some small modification to make the area a sight greener and I have a rowan tree in mind, if I can find a suitable specimen.

For a new poem this week, I owe a debt to my friend Max (who wrote a comment referencing the Bhodi Tree on a fellow blogger's Tree blog last week). That was the spark that led to the following research and poetry.

In 623 BC the Nepalese prince Siddhartha Gautama forsook his life of privilege and became an itinerant in a search for inner peace and spiritual fulfilment. Legend has it that his quest culminated in a period of prolonged meditation (seven weeks to be precise) seated beneath a Peepal (fig) tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar in India. At the end of his forty-nine day meditation, Siddhartha announced that he had found enlightenment - a state of perfect knowledge combined with infinite compassion. He thanked the tree for its gifts of enlightenment and shade. His spiritual teachings became the basis of a new religion and just as Siddhartha became the Buddha, so the fig tree became the Bodhi Tree, or tree of awakening. Descendants of that original tree have existed at Bodh Gaya for over two and a half millennia. There is still one growing there today, a popular destination for pilgrims, and the fig tree has been accorded religious status in many parts of India.

Buddha under the Bhodi Tree (of Awakening)
Mr Page and gentle readers all, I hope you'll approve this latest from the imaginarium.

Dig The Big Fig
When it became infra dig for a Nepalese prince
to wallow in hollow luxury, he set out on a quest
for true values and found the wisdom he desired
beneath the spreading shade of a Peepal tree.

Cross-legged and attired in a beggar's raiment,
he'd meditated seven by seven days straight until
enlightenment was granted to his soul: that
resignation is the goal, compassion is the key,

for everything that lives is holy. Dig the big fig!
Real satisfaction and peace of mind will only come
from being humble, being kind. As for the rest -
material wealth, position, power - all illusory.

Finally, as a bonus, loosely related to expertise, here's the title-poem from Brian Bilston's first collection:

You Took The Last Bus Home
you took
the last bus home
don't know how
you got it through the door

you're always doing amazing stuff

like the time
you caught the train

                            Brian Bilston, 2016

That's all folks...thanks for reading. Be kind! Plant a tree! S ;-)


Lizzie Fentiman said...

Ripper blogging Steve! 👍

Matt West said...

Bloody hell mate, thats a lot of trees! You happy with the new manager?

Anonymous said...

Staggering tree stats but a cute couple of poems. Thanks for sharing.

Christine Bradley said...

Love this Steve ❤️

Boz said...

Expertly written la! :)

Brian Cassell said...

Well that was food for thought. I enjoyed your Buddha poem, very nice.

Kevin Sterling said...

Fine mind rambling Steve. No one should trust the experts implicitly. Our native scepticism is our finest weapon!I've made a note to go see Dark Waters.

Rochelle said...

This was a great read. I hope you find your rowan tree - they keep witches away as well.

CI66Y said...

Wow Steve. Seeing those tree figures broken down like that makes you realise just what a task this is going to be. Thanks for doing the maths that made a bland 1.5 billion come to life! I like what you've done with the Bhodi Tree poem - it strikes a good tone. BTW, have you heard the band Plantman and their album Whispering Trees?

Tom Shaw said...

Trees are our friends. Great blog Steve. Dig the Big Fig - right on. Peace.

Grant Trescothick said...

Good shout our for Dark Waters there, saw it on Tuesday night. If they'd released it months earlier it might have bagged some Oscars. It's another fine blog and poem Steve and yes, I shall plant a tree or three this year.

Max Page said...

Poem duly approved, Steve :) What you've conjured up is something way beyond my abilities to fashion so all credit to you. Top blogging as ever. 👍

Anonymous said...

A fascinating and eye-opening read Mr. R which doesn't show DEFRA in a very good light. Still, who knew ten years ago that trees would save the world (given the rate they were being chopped down).

M. Darbyshire said...

Just wondering - where do Christmas trees fit in this arboreal vision of the future?

Rod Downey said...

Nice to see a quote from Blake in your poem. I like it when writers cross-pollinate.

Steve Rowland said...

Entirely appropriate(d) I thought, Rod. I don't know how much Blake knew of or was influenced by Buddhism (possibly not at all) but that sentiment - from Heaven and Hell - fits so neatly with the central tenets of Buddhism that some of that faith's most revered scholars (e.g. Sangharakshita) have borrowed Blake's words as a starting point for their own treatises on 'being kind'.

Dani Merakli said...

Experts - folks who don't know much about anything except one thing!

Nigella D said...

Excellent blogging as ever Steve. Those numbers are really challenging! Thanks for the tip about Dark Waters. I wasn't sure after watching the trailer but we'll deffo go and see it now. I really like what you've done with your Buddha poem - nicely turned.

Sahra Carezel said...

I love your latest poem. ❤️

Jambo said...

Good Leap Saturday Blogging - can't wait for the next one - we should have planted 300 million new trees by then :)

Jon Cromwell said...

Another thought-provoking piece and one that covers a lot of bases. I'm sure expertise is both good and necessary. Having a conscience allied to it is also key. I think too many enjoy the 'mystique' of their expertise and the power it can give them. As you say Steve, informed decisions based on certifiable data are the surest way forward - but there are so many twisted agendas out there hiding and distorting the facts.

F O'Jay said...

I had to look up infra dig! You're an education.

Deke Hughes said...

That is one hell of a lot of trees! Puts the challenge into some kind of perspective. I suspect Covid-19 has pushed all plans down the agenda for the next few months... and then there's actually getting Brexit done to deflect minds still further. My guess is this ain't going to happen and we'll all just get hotter, nastier and more selfish, exactly what your poem is counselling against. Human beings! We are the most dangerous animals on the planet.

Binty said...

That tree plan if it is one sounds a bit unreal to me. Plant your Rowan, at least you know it will get done. I love the Big Fig poem.

Ben Templeton said...

As poetic homilies go, I thought Dig The Big Fig was quite cool. 👍 I too would love a Van Gogh garden.

Anonymous said...

Covid-19 outbreak put paid to all thoughts of anything else (even Brexit negotiations) for weeks/months, so tree-planting ain't going to happen any time soon.

Gareth Boyd Haskins said...

By my reckoning, every man, woman and child in the country needs to plant a tree a year for the next twenty years and bingo, mission accomplished. As you say, where to find the saplings and the space? Most gardens might have room for one, maybe two at most. Make them fruit trees with a couple of beehives under them and we're on the way to sustainable food crops as well. Makes you think...thanks for the blog and figgy poem :)

Harry Lennon said...

Interesting to come across a Brian Bilston poem on your blog. He has a lively mind and I find some of his poems clever and funny but he's a bit one-dimensional in my opinion, unlike your good self. I enjoyed Dig The Big Fig. Om shanti shanti shanti.

Miriam Fife said...

Another fabulous and thoughtful blog and poem Steve. I love reading these posts. 'Teflon-coated Du Pont company' was an inspired phrase. I thought the movie Dark Waters was excellent too, It's the last thing we saw. God only knows when we'll go to the cinema next! Stay well and keep blogging.

Anonymous said...

I love Dig The Big Fig. I think I might plant one in my garden :)