Taylor: If trees could speak

The trees talked about the joy they felt as children scrambled over their roots and swung from their branches.

A friend sent me an article written by a tree. I know, trees can’t write. But students can. And the students at a historic school in southern India wrote what they thought a tree in their schoolyard might say, if it could speak.

It’s an interesting and informative exercise to undertake, anytime.

The tree described the sense of community among 100 trees of 16 species. The trees talked about the joy they felt as children scrambled over their roots and swung from their branches. About their fruit being used for children’s games and for traditional medicines. About their flowers scenting the air with fragrance, providing splashes of colour amid the grime of a capital city.

But that city wants two acres of school property for a bus loop and shopping mall.

The story, credited only to an Anitha S., concluded with these thoughts (edited excerpts):

“In the last few days, 48 of us—who have for years released life-giving oxygen and inhaled toxic carbon dioxide—have felt death come near. Men marked our barks with yellow paint and numbered us.

“Some of us will have to be cut to make way for the buses. Others will have to inhale more and more noxious fumes. The humidity essential for us to carry on photosynthesis will be reduced with the heat and dust of the vehicles and concrete. We will be unable to effectively carry out our most significant ecological service—producing life-supporting oxygen for all living beings.

“We know that in our presence, the temperature comes down by 5-6 degrees Celsius on a hot day. By the process of evapotranspiration we reduce the Heat Island Effect caused by concrete, glass and steel.

“A team of men put price tags on us. Money seems to be the single largest factor driving the human world. For me it seems absurd to say that if I am cut, you will lose so many rupees worth of oxygen, so many rupees worth of bark and leaves and seeds that can heal the painful dog bite on your knee. But if this kind of valuation will help me live for one more day inhaling the poisonous gases, taking in the sunshine, absorbing moisture and exhaling the cool and pure oxygen, then I am able to understand the calculation.

“Now we hear that of the 48 trees marked, only 10 will be cut. Which 10? Who will decide? I am still a young tree and have many more years of life. I do not want to be chopped up so soon. But as I look around, I do not want any of our 16 species to be cut and moved away.

“These are my thoughts after an evening when summer rains cooled the city. I stand in the fading light with my leaves cleansed of dust, ready to absorb and transform the energy of the sun next morning.

“I know there are many people in the city who care. I hope they will stand for us, their tall green friends.”