April 22nd was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. As we reflect on the Earth our home planet, we have to acknowledge the fact that this pandemic has changed the way we live. Pollution is down as much of the world is on lockdown. Clear skies, the return of various animals, clear views of the Himalaya are all happening through the COVID -19 pandemic. Thousands of persons have lost their lives or are sick with this virus for which there is no vaccine.
This then is a time to think again about our way of life, which while enriching some, has taken a toll: deforestation, pollution of rivers, smog -filled skies and much destruction of the Earth fueling climate change. Trees and plants are significant for reestablishing a healthy world. Green spaces are needed for a growing population to refuel and relax; they are needed for food security. We can also provide employment through the Green Economy.
The importance of trees is frequently mentioned in the Bible. In Proverbs 13 verse 12, it is noted: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is the tree of life.” The desire I speak of in this is the need to commemorate the beginning and the end of life with the planting of trees. In fact, throughout the life cycle and the rites of passage, the planting of a tree could help to celebrate and commemorate. In some cultures, when a baby was born, the umbilical cord was buried and a tree planted. Generations could use the tree as a link to the land as well as to provide food crops. This was the case in Jamaica where the majority of African Jamaican families used to do this when babies were born at home delivered by very skillful midwives. This would take on even greater significance when members of Jamaican families migrated mainly to the USA , the UK and Canada and wished to maintain ancestral links. It was indeed difficult to claim the connection in the metropoles to which they migrated.
The original Taino name from which Jamaica was derived meant “Land of Wood and Water” both of which have been significantly destroyed by urbanization, slash and burn agriculture and other destructive practices. For us to start planting trees again would do the country good and would coincide with an international campaign to plant trees. Even those who are now mainly born in hospitals could plant trees to commemorate birth. We could also plant trees to remember unsung heroes in the history of our country and the world.
This pandemic has also resulted in the death and burial in mass graves of people on Hart Island, New York – the state with the largest death toll. Hart Island is now home to people whose bodies were unclaimed. Would it not be significant to plant a grove of remembrance virtually and in reality to remember those whose memories would be erased? If not, would any mourn them or know where they had been laid to rest?
Green Team International is launching this ambitious project to commemorate your life events and rites of passages AND to remember those who would otherwise be forgotten. My desire and that of those of us at Green Team would be to see these and other lives commemorated by the planting of trees. Finally, in the spirit of eco-warrior, Nobel Peace Prize winner and our inspiration, Wangari Maathai, we hope that by planting these trees at first in Jamaica and then later in other locations around the world, we will help to restore a bit of much needed balance to our Earth.
JOIN US IN CELEBRATING LIFE here with the Tree of Life Memorial Project.
Plant a tree at St. Mary’s Peace farm in Jamaica.
Green Team International Board Member
May 2, 2020