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Jungle memories

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by H. I. E. Katugaha

I have had a long innings of jungle trips. Many of these were with my uncle, Sam Elapata Dissawe, who had an unrivalled knowledge of elephants and their ways. I learnt from him many things about the jungle and its denizens. I remember now with nostalgia the trips I shared with him. After his death, the interest in the jungle, which I acquired from him as a young schoolboy, has persisted to this day.

A walk up the Menik Ganga

It was in the 1950’s that I was able to join Sam Elapata Dissawe on a trip along the banks of the Menik Ganga during the height of the drought. There were four of us, besides Sam Elapata Dissawe, who did this trek, namely the late A.H.E.Molamure, Robo Singho our tracker, David our cook and myself, then a schoolboy. It was my privilege to be walking with them and learning the ways of the wilds.

Before we reached the riverbank, Robo stopped and pointed to the ground. I could see nothing there. He then drew the footprint of a leopard on the sand. I at once recognized it. He next showed me a leaf of a creeper on the ground. The leaf resembled the shape of the footprint. The name of that creeper was divi pahura (Ipomoea pestigridis). This botanical name, according to Trimen (1898) is a translation of the Sinhalese name, which “from the form of the leaf, (is) thought to resemble a tiger’s foot”. We were next told that it was a medicinal plant used in the treatment of tarantula bites and stings of scorpions, poisonous insects and the like. All one had to do was to crush some of the leaves, add lime and apply on the injury.

I was amazed when he showed me a brown ball, which was smaller than a marble. It was suspended from the under surface of a leaf. “Don’t touch it,” he said. It was a ball of ticks. If any animal or human being brushes past it, hundreds of ticks will be dispersed on the body. Their bites are very painful.

We reached the riverbank at about 9.30 am. The river had no flowing water at all. There were many puddles of stagnant water especially under the larger kumbuk trees. I was told to keep a respectable distance from them as they all harboured crocodiles.

We began our walk in silence. Robo was leading, followed by Uncle Sam, myself, and Uncle Hupp] (Mr. Molamure), with David, carrying our lunch, in the rear. It was cool along the river, though the drought was on. Along the river there were many carcasses of dead buffalo. We stopped at each and examined it. Crocodiles had eaten all of them as shown by the tracks. Wild boar, jackals and crows had picked up the left-over pieces. We did not find any leopard tracks at any of the carcasses. Perhaps they did not have to come to the river to get at food, as many animals died during this drought and there was no shortage of food elsewhere. It is surprising that we did not come across a single carcass of a sambhur. As we walked along, the stench was unbearable at times with so many rotting carcasses. During that morning walk, we counted 168 buffalo carcasses. I dreaded to think how many more there would have been upriver.

A female elephant quietly walked to the river ahead of us. This was what Uncle Sam had come out to see and so we stopped under a tree and watched in silence. She came to the riverbed and stood silently. The wind was in our favour and therefore she was quite unaware of the human intrusion into her domain. Within 10 minutes, as if in answer to summons unheard by us, the rest of the herd consisting of four adult females, two adolescents and two babies came down the bank to join her.

The adults then began digging the riverbed. Using their fore legs and trunks, they dug holes in the sand and waited for the water to fill up. That was the first time I saw elephants dig for water in a dry riverbed. The adults first drank, then splashed water on their bodies and moved aside. The sub adults and babies came next. One baby was too small to use its trunk and had to kneel down and lap up the water. It was an endearing sight to see one of the adults, obviously the matriarch, splash water on the babies. It took them about 45 minutes to complete their task and they went back up the riverbank into the jungle.

It was now time for lunch and we started our meal under a large kumbuk tree. Deer came down to the river and went straight to the elephant wells, but never dared to go to the pools of water under the trees. No doubt they were well aware of the crocodiles that were lurking in the stagnant water. Several peafowl followed. As we were having lunch we watched how the lesser animals made use of these elephant wells and not the stagnant pools. Two stripe-necked mongooses came along and joined the peafowl. Many birds too came over fora drink of water till some wild boar arrived on the scene. The birds scattered, and the wild boar took their turn and made the wells deeper, making good use of their snouts. Not being as patient as the elephants, they did make a mess of things. Just before we left, a solitary female sambhur came down for a drink. We started on our return journey as evening was approaching.

During the day the wild boar were feasting on the carcasses. The crocodiles were most active in the night. We did see two crocodiles finishing off a carcass. They did not move off even when we passed quite close to them. The alarm call of deer and the belling of a sambhur made us aware that a leopard was on the prowl, but with five of us walking along we did not see the leopard. No doubt he saw us and gave us a wide berth.

A lone bull elephant came upriver and we moved behind a tree to let him pass. He was a majestic animal in the prime of his life. He walked up the river. stopping now and then to test the air. We presumed he had got wind of a herd with which he was trying to make contact. With not more than fifty yards to go, another lone bull elephant was walking quickly upriver. Our tracker informed us that the two of them were certainly looking for a herd that must be close by.

We got back to camp late, but it was an enchanting walk up the Menik Ganga. Years later while camping by the Menik Ganga, there was a dead buffalo close to camp. I built a hide and tried to photograph the way the jungle disposed of the dead. Nothing touched the carcass for three days, but on the fourth day when I went in the morning to check, there was no carcass, but only skin and bone were left, The buffalo was eaten in one night by crocodiles. Their tracks revealed that it was the work of six large crocodiles.

Leopard and wild boar

One hot afternoon we were walking along a jungle path with tracker Pinoris leading, when he made us stop by raising his hand. Across an open plain about two hundred yards from us, several wild boar were busy attacking a tree. We stood still for nearly half an hour till the wild boar made off in the opposite direction. It was a leopard, which had picked up a baby wild boar and gone up the tree. In this situation the wild boar would have attacked anything that moved taking it to be a leopard. That was why Pinoris made us stand still. The leopard was lying on a horizontal branch and enjoying his delicacy.

Though they love wild boar flesh, it would be a very foolish leopard that will try to get one from a sounder with a frontal attack. They usually lie in wait and pick up a suckling as the sounder passes. Immediately the wild boar would attack the leopard, and hence it must have a nearby tree to seek shelter. There have been many instances where leopards have been severely injured or even killed after an attack on a sounder of wild boar.

On another occasion, while walking in the jungle we came across a wild boar eating a dead deer. He was so busy having his meal that he did not notice the four of us walking up. It was Uncle Sam who got us to sit down. There, under a tree not ten yards from the kill was a leopard. We belly-crawled back to a bush and got under it. It was obviously the leopard’s kill the boar had taken over. It was only after the boar had finished and moved away that the leopard came to his kill. He did not wait long. He dragged it to the nearest palu tree and effortlessly took it up to a fork where he lodged it firmly. Unfortunately it was not during a time we had telephoto lenses or video cameras.

One morning when we were camping out we had quite a surprise. A sounder of wild boar ran through the camp. They were very agitated. We remained still till they had passed our camp. I then quietly went in the direction from where they came. I had not gone very far when I heard a thud behind me. Looking back I saw a dead baby wild boar on the ground. I did not see the leopard but there was no doubt that the leopard had picked up the baby boar and gone up a tree. The thud I heard marked its inadvertent fall from a height. Quickly I made a hide, determined to photograph the leopard when he came to eat his kill. When I walked back from camp with my camera the kill was gone.

While camping in the 1980’s my children, on their way to the river, had seen a unique sight. A leopard blundered into an adult boar. They had both been surprised. Attack being the best form of defence, the two of them met face to face. They had both stood up on their hind legs before the leopard leapt over the boar and ran into the jungle.

Watching at a water hole

It was in the late 1950’s, during a drought, that Uncle Sam announced that we were going to Ranna to be at a water-hole for the day. Since all animals had to come to water for a drink, he had a hut put up on a tree near the water-hole.

Uncle Sam, together with Upali and I were up early and set off from his residence at Godakawela. We reached Tangalla rest house for an early breakfast. We had to await the arrival of Rupasinghe, who was to meet us. He came only at 10.30 am, and Uncle Sam was annoyed that he was so late. We then decided to leave after lunch, as most animals came to the water-hole in the evening. Uncle Sam then said that it was no use spending only a few hours, and therefore he decided to stay overnight. Thankfully, it was a full moon night. Hastily we got our dinner and flasks of tea ready, and set off after a heavy lunch.

We drove to a spot a few miles from Tangalla and walked the rest of the way. The driver was given instructions to bring the car next morning by 6 am.

The walk in the afternoon was not the most comfortable, but we were able to get to the water-hole at about 2.30 pm. We next had a problem to get Uncle Sam up the ladder leading to the watch-hut on the tree. As he was frightened of heights, it was not easy for him, but the thought of seeing herds of elephants made him forget his fears. The platform was about thirty feet up the tree and had a covering so that we were in the shade. The four of us settled down to see animals.

My thoughts went out to the plight of the chena cultivator, who has to stay up on a watch hut in a tree to drive away animals that come in the night to devour his crops. It is no easy task to keep up the whole night to drive off elephants from one’s chena. Many sing at night to keep themselves from falling asleep and to keep away animals. But we had come to observe wildlife and make the most of the evening and night. Biscuits and tea proved to be wonderful refreshments after that hot afternoon walk. With the wind in our faces we awaited the arrival of animals to this water-hole.

The water-hole seemed to be bare, but careful observation revealed that it was indeed occupied by no less than four fair-sized crocodiles. Their snouts gave them away. It was after four that the birds came down. Twelve painted storks were the first to arrive. They systematically probed the shallows for fish and frogs. Egrets came next; and then two pelicans came over, circled the water-hole twice and veered off to seek another source in their quest for food.

It was not until 4.40 pm that deer came out to the small plain by the pool. They came out slowly in groups of about seven. Soon we had a herd out in front of us that came to the water’s edge, hurriedly had their drink and moved off to start feeding on the dry grass. Wild boar ran straight into water, not caring for the crocodilian eyes.

They were all big adults and did not have babies to worry about. A solitary female sambhur walked slowly to the water’s edge, looked around, quickly had a drink of water and ran back to the jungle.

Elephants that Uncle Sam had come all the way to see arrived late. It was nearly six and shadows had lengthened before a herd of twelve came to water. The breaking of branches and the trumpeting made us aware that more elephants were on their way. Soon there was a congregation of well over thirty in the pool. It was a beautiful sight. The adults beat the surface of the water with their trunks before they entered. Even when they were bathing they kept beating the water. Uncle Sam whispered that this was a way of keeping the crocodiles away from the baby elephants. No sight is more endearing than that of baby elephants sporting in water. We watched them till the day gave way to twilight. The setting sun gave a golden glow to the water and its surroundings. It soon became dark and the elephants moved off back to the jungle.

We settled down for the night. The wind blowing cold made us cover up as much as possible. We had not made any allowances for the cold night that we now had to spend in the tree hut. A hot cup of tea was more than welcome. The moon came up and we were now able to see the water-hole in front and a part of the plain.

Dinner was taken and I was ready for a nap. Soon I was fast asleep curling up to the best of my ability. We took turns to watch the water-hole. Another herd of over fifty came at about 2 am. It was lovely to see them playing in the water by moonlight. At 5.20 am I felt our tree shaking. Peering down from the hut, I was surprised to see a lone bull elephant having a good rub on the very tree that we were on. I now realized the importance of having drawn up the ladder and tied it securely after we climbed up the tree. I became worried when Uncle Sam said aloud chee, aliya (a word of admonition to the elephant).

The effect was even more amazing. He stopped, looked up, trumpeted and ran off into the jungle.

The rest of the night was uneventful. When it was light we had our tea and one by one came down from the tree. It was comforting to be able to stretch our legs and walk. We set off in single file as always, and soon came to a stop. Our lone bull elephant was there in the middle of the jungle track. He seemed to have all the time in the world, but we did not. We watched him for a good half an hour and decided to take a detour. But Uncle Sam coughed. The elephant spun around and faced us. He seemed to be undecided as to what he should do. Uncle Sam walked up and said chee, aliya once again.

The elephant froze with his right front foot raised. Then he ran off to our right, trumpeting all the way. It was wonderful to see a puny man stand up and face a mighty beast. That was enough of excitement for the morning and I was relieved when we came to the main road and saw our car waiting for us. We had seen well over a hundred elephants and Uncle Sam was very happy.

The rest-house keeper provided us with a hearty breakfast. We set off back to Godakawela and reached home for lunch.

(To be continued)

(Excerpted from Jungle Journeys in Sri Lanka edited by CG Uragoda)



Features

Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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Responding to our energy addiction

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by Ranil Senanayake

Sri Lanka today is in the throes of addiction withdrawal. Reliant on fossil fuels to maintain the economy and basic living comforts, the sudden withdrawal of oil, coal and gas deliveries has exposed the weakness and the danger of this path of ‘development’ driven by fossil energy. This was a result of some poorly educated aspirants to political power who became dazzled by the advancement of western industrial technology and equated it with ‘Development’. They continue with this blind faith even today.

Thus, on December 20th 1979, an official communiqué was issued by the Government and displayed in the nation’s newspapers stating, “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”. This defined with clarity what was to be considered development by the policy-makers of that time. This fateful decision cast a deadly policy framework for the nation. The energy source that was to drive the national economy would be fossil-based. Even today, that same policy framework and its adherents continue. Everything, from electricity to cooking fuel, was based on fossil energy.

The economics of development, allows externalizing all the negative effects of ‘development’ into the environment, this being justified because, “industrialisation alleviates poverty”. The argument, is that economies need to industrialise in order to reduce poverty; but industrialisation leads to ‘unavoidable emissions. Statements like, ‘reduction in poverty leads to an increase in emissions’ is often trotted out as dogma. Tragically, these views preclude a vision of development based on high tech, non-fossil fuel driven, low consumptive lifestyles. Indeed, one indicator of current ‘development’ is the per capita consumption of power, without addressing the source of that power.

A nation dependent on fossil fuel is very much like an addict dependent on drugs. The demand is small, at first, but grows swiftly, until all available resources are given. In the end, when there is nothing else left to pawn, even the future of their children will be pawned and finally the children themselves! Today, with power cuts and fuel shortages, the pain of addiction begins to manifest.

The creation of desire

This perspective of ‘development’, the extension of so-called ‘civilised living’ is not new to us in Sri Lanka, Farrer, writing in 1920, had this to say when visiting Colombo:

“Modern, indeed, is all this, civilised and refined to a notable degree. All the resources of modern culture are thick about you, and you feel that the world was only born yesterday, so far as right-thinking people are concerned.

And, up and down in the shade of glare, runs furiously the unresting tide of life. The main street is walled in by high, barrack like structures, fiercely western in the heart of the holy East, and the big hotels upon its frontage extend their uncompromising European facades. Within them there is a perpetual twilight, and meek puss-faced Sinhalese take perpetually the drink orders of prosperous planters and white-whiskered old fat gentlemen in sun hats lined with green. At night these places are visible realisation of earthly pleasure to the poor toiling souls from the farthest lonely heights of the mountains and the jungle.” The process goes on still …

Develop we must, but cautiously – with the full awareness of the long-term consequences of each process. Development must be determined by empowering the fundamental rights of the people and of the future generations. Clean air, clean water, access to food and freedom from intoxication, are some of these fundamental rights. Any process that claims to be part of a development process must address these, among other social and legal fundamental rights.

One problem has been that, the movement of a country with traditional non-consumptive values, into a consumerist society based on fossil energy tends to erode these values rapidly. Often, we are told that this is a necessary prerequisite to become a ‘developed country’, but this need not be so. We need to address that fundamental flaw stated in 1979. We need to wean ourselves away from the hydrocarbon-based economy to a carbohydrate-based economy. Which means moving from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy.

Fossil Fuels or fossil hydrocarbons are the repository of excess carbon dioxide that is constantly being injected into the atmosphere by volcanic action for over the last 200 million years. Hydrocarbons are substances that were created to lock up that excess Carbon Dioxide, sustaining the stable, Oxygen rich atmosphere we enjoy today. Burning this fossil stock of hydrocarbons is the principal driver of modern society as well as climate change. It is now very clear that the stability of planetary climate cycles is in jeopardy and a very large contributory factor to this crisis are the profligate activities of modern human society.

As a response to the growing public concern that fossil fuels are destroying our future, the fossil industry developed a ‘placating’ strategy. Plant a tree, they say, the tree will absorb the carbon we emit and take it out of the atmosphere, through this action we become Carbon neutral. When one considers that the Carbon which lay dormant for 200 million years was put into the atmosphere today, can never be locked up for an equal amount of time by planting a tree. A tree can hold the Carbon for 500 years at best and when it dies its Carbon will be released into the atmosphere again as Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide is extracted from the atmosphere by plants and converted into a solid form through the action of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic biomass performs the act of primary production, the initial step in the manifestation of life. This material has the ability to increase in mass by the absorption of solar or other electromagnetic radiation, while releasing oxygen and water vapor into the atmosphere. It is only photosynthetic biomass that powers carbon sequestration, carbohydrate production, oxygen generation and water transformation, i.e., all actions essential for the sustainability of the life support system of the planet.

Yet currently, it is only one product of this photosynthetic biomass, sequestered carbon, usually represented by wood/timber, that is recognized as having commercial value in the market for mitigating climate change. The ephemeral part, the leaves, are generally ignored, yet the photosynthetic biomass in terrestrial ecosystems are largely composed of leaves, this component needs a value placed on it for its critical ‘environmental services’

With growth in photosynthetic biomass, we will see more Oxygen, Carbon sequestering and water cleansing, throughout the planet. As much of the biomass to be gained is in degraded ecosystems around the planet and as these areas are also home to the world’s rural poor, these degraded ecosystems have great growth potential for generating photosynthetic biomass of high value. If the restoration of these degraded ecosystems to achieve optimal photosynthetic biomass cover becomes a global goal, the amazing magic of photosynthesis could indeed help change our current dire course, create a new paradigm of growth and make the planet more benign for our children.

Instead of flogging the dead horse of fossil energy-based growth as ‘Economic Development’, instead of getting the population addicted to fossil energy, will we have the commonsense to appreciate the value of photosynthetic biomass and encourage businesses that obtain value for the nations Primary Ecosystem Services (PES)? The realization of which, will enrich not only our rural population but rural people the world over!

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