What are we doing to ourselves?

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: July 08, 2018 21:09:20 | Updated: July 08, 2018 21:15:08

It must go down as one of the most thought-provoking messages on conservation. That famous appeal by Prince Philip, consort of Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, was pregnant with emotion yet brief in convincing copy. 'Take care of this planet, it's the only one we have'. In eleven words it all came together. Responsibility and cause were subtly defined, causing heads to bow - some in shame, others in guilt. Rude, blatant and even brazen attempts to deny that which is actual has resulted in an exacerbation of the issue. US President Donald Trump doesn't believe there's an issue and walked out of a UN-brokered pact that took years in the making. The resignation of his chief of the Environment Protection Agency Scott Pruitt has been made out to be due to mismanagement and inappropriate behaviour (read graft) but holds forth the hope of a less hawkish replacement.

Mr. Trump wants a scaling down of President Barrack Obama's overtures and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. That has been emphasised by his suggestion that Saudi Arabia increases oil output by two million barrels a day. This will undo an Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Country (OPEC) decision to prop up low prices and infuriate Russia that has seen oil revenues plummet due to a glut. Mr. Trump wants to protect his zealously guarded trove of shale oil even at the cost of a world economic    mayhem.

But countries have their own share of environmental conservation that contributes to the whole. Tree and forest land cover is woefully short with Bangladesh not making the list of top ten that have reasonably better forest cover. Bangladesh averages in the single digit against a minimum requirement of 25 per cent of its landmass to be covered by trees. As the monsoon peaks and the time for plantation begins there are rumours of a massive forestation drive that will have a symbolic three million number to be implemented. Looking after the planet is more than just planting trees, it's also about taking care of them. The love affair with tree-cutting isn't matched by nurturing of the magnificent species for all the adages and religious doctrine that we have been exposed to. That nurturing should come as a natural sequence is sometimes lost resulting in the Annual afforestation drive turning out to be a flop.

Real estate companies are facing a new challenge as clients seeking apartments want their own green space that comes in various forms and sizes. The more local varieties of plants made available, the more the chances of survival and attraction for the birds that are so much an integral part of biodiversity. Roof and pocket verandah gardens aren't a substitute for planned forests and there are at least two examples of major industrial projects shelved because of the damage expected to natural forests. Unfortunately the examples of forests razed for clearing up space are in double digits.

Schools and colleges and the 3000 new schools to be constructed can easily have small clump of forests in a country blessed with naturally growing trees. It does wonders for the environment and is a living example of the best that botany or biology can teach in practical class. The President or Education Minister can show the way by not attending function at schools that don't have trees and adding that to the list of inspectors can only help.


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