Sunday, November 18, 2007

Achieving Karmic Environmental Balance

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In 1966, my grandfather, William Arthur Wall, decided that he wanted to grow trees. With the help of the Ontario government, he located 195 acres of abandoned farm land that was available from a tax sale, and had the land plowed into furrows for a tree farm or plantation.

Using seedlings grown at the Kemptville Nursery, he planted Red Pine and White Spruce. The initial planting was done by machine, but the quality was poor, and my grandfather decided that the planting should be done by hand in future. And so we did. With a bucket containing bundles of 2-3 year old seedlings, and a shovel, we walked the rows, ultimately planting 150,000 trees.

As a 10 year old kid, the work seemed impossibly hard. The buckets were heavy, the mosquitoes relentless, the weather cold. While I retreated to the car to recover, my grandfather would just keep working.

I learned a few important life lessons from the experience:

You need to work hard to get something you want,

It is never too late to start (what was an old man doing planting trees??)

Some things take longer than next week or next month to accomplish.

It is difficult to adequately describe the sense of accomplishment one gets when looking at a forest, knowing that before, there was only scrub. The transformation of the area has been incredible, with a big increase in wildlife as well - birds, groundhogs, porcupines, and signs of other larger animals.

Having spent most of my working life involved with information technology, the one constant has been change. I read, research, and learn, aware that the useful life of what I know will likely expire in less than 24 months.

It is some comfort to know that by acting as the steward of a forest, I have something in my life to counter-balance the pace and waste of IT. When I think of all the paper that is consumed by the process of automating information processing, I take karmic relief in the knowledge that the big ledger in the sky is balanced by the contribution of biomass, habitat, carbon sink, and whatever other environmental factors forests contribute.

I have to say though, the personal benefits are limited to the non-financial. The economics of growing trees are not pretty. One has all the capital costs up front, running costs in the form of property taxes, and event costs in the form of pest control and natural disasters such as ice storms and fires. The bottom line is that this is a labour of love. So far, it has been a money pit.

If you feel the need to redress your environmental karmic balance, send money, and I will plant a tree in your honour.

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