Dec 211999

In the next millennium I would like to be reunited with a beloved pine tree, cover the Himalayan foothills with woods, dress our denuded planet with one third forest cover and restore sparkling streams, rivers and oceans. I want to nurse the soil back to health, clean the air, and make the desert bloom.


When we spent our last holiday in then peaceful Kashmir I cried as we drove out of Phalgam. It felt like leaving a dearly beloved friend. At first I did not understand. There was no need to be sad. We were together and still had our trip to Leh and a week on a houseboat to look forward to.

Suddenly I knew.

I had fallen under the spell of an ancient pine. The tree begged me to come back and save it from the axe.

We had stayed in a government tourist bungalow with large grounds. Out with my sketch-book the previous afternoon and leaning against a large pine, I had noticed an alarming number of tree stumps all around.

More than twenty years have passed and I still feel the call of the tree. Today I remember it because I read on the net how Julia Hill saved an ancient redwood tree. After living in the tall tree for two years, this young environmental activist last week finally made the lumber company sign an agreement. Julia and her supporters will pay $50,000. The lumber company will spare the tree, leave a 2.9 acre buffer zone around it, and allow Julia to visit the tree which is on company property.

So why don’t we buy the Aral Sea?


I stumbled into – Heroes for the Planet: The Aral Sea, a photo essay ‘The Dying Sea’.

Formerly, this Inland Sea supported a population of 50 million, who fished for sturgeon (remember caviar?) and carp and grazed cattle on the banks.

Then the Russian planners decided to divert two rivers from feeding the Sea into irrigation channels for cash crops, mainly cotton. Over the past forty years, the Sea lost 75 per cent of its original water volume, a loss which completely killed the fishing industry. Thousands of square miles of former sea bed are now desert and thousands of acres of agricultural land have become saline.

The result, says the essay, is one of the world’s worst airborne ecological disasters. Dust from the Aral’s dry bed (which makes up an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s atmospheric sediment) melts glaciers as far away as the Himalayas and Greenland. It’s own region suffers toxic salt storms, poisoning thousands of acres of farmland.

Can this Sea been saved?

Yes, say environmentalists.

If for a period of ten years no water is diverted for irrigation the Sea will recover.

Cotton of course is a valuable commercial crop. But supposing ………. I mean just think about it ……. we all chip in with a dollar a month, maybe the 300 million internet users could ………