As I write this at the end of the first week of November, there is much to make me scared. For the second year in a row, the summer here ran right into the middle of October, with temperatures hovering around 40C. Rice crops planted during the Adi month were abandoned by many farmers, and here at Marudam the nursery was prepared but not sown. Now, in the middle of what should be the North East monsoon, wells are close to empty and fields lie fallow all around. The leaves of trees on the Hill are turning yellow and falling at a time when they should be at their most verdant. Globally, there have been fourteen consecutive months that each monthly average temperature has been the warmest ever recorded.
We have always tried to keep these newsletterrs to a sharing of the work we do and the little positive steps we are able to make here. But this does not mean that we are unaware of the enormity of the ecological collapse unfolding in our very lifetimes, nor that we are not often stricken with heartbreak and anger at the course the world takes. We have chosen the course of constructive action not because we believe it to be better than directly tackling the forces of destruction, but because we have found ourselves able to do this, and both are so badly needed. A while back, talking to a dear friend who has devoted her life to defending the living world, I used the old cliche of all efforts being ‘just a drop in the ocean’. She responded with a much better one. ‘It’s a drop in the desert’, she said. This change of perspective in no way trivialises the enormity of the problems, nor does it falsely glorify the little steps we are able to achieve. But it does give clarity in times of despair, and reminds us that while our efforts seem hopeless, they may not be meaningless.
But back to the Hill.
Over the last two years, we had for the first time done extensive planting on flat ground at the base of the Hill, on the Western side. The accessibility of this area has meant that for the first time we have been able to carry out summer watering for large numbers of trees. Thanks to our friend Dr Kanishka who has land and a well nearby, Masilamani and his team have been able to carry water to those ten thousand or so plants, and as a result the survival is significantly higher than it would otherwise have been over this punishing summer.
In fact, back in July, when a depression and some good rains gave hope of a decent South-West monsoon, we took the risk of planting a few thousand saplings in the same area, replacing any casualties from last year, and extending the planted area. That gamble failed, and so we’ve been keeping those trees hanging on between the occasional rains and the watering, and luckily haven’t lost too many. We’ve also done most of the pitting for this year’s planting, so that we are ready to plant when the weather changes.
Meanwhile, the Forest Nursery is bursting with more variety and a greater number of plants than ever before, and we’ve had to extend the area to make space for them all.
We’ve also been building a new shade-house. This will house the mother beds where we germinate the seeds that will later get planted out on the Hill, as well as collections of more delicate plants that need the extra protection and care. The nursery has always been a very practical place where a lot happens that is at the very core of our mission, but which may not be so obvious to the casual visitor. With the new shade house and other additions to the nursery, we’re hoping to make it easier to introduce and explain our work without disturbing the plants or the people looking after them.