Thursday, August 11, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: Grace's Articles from 2009...

Planting a four year old pine sapling in 2009;
(Photo by Grace Chua)
He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;
Leaves unfold into horizons free.
So man's life must climb
From the clods of time
Unto heavens sublime.
Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

He who plants a tree
Plants a joy;
Plants a comfort that will never cloy;
Every day a fresh reality,
Beautiful and strong,
To whose shelter throng
Creatures blithe with song.
If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,
Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

He who plants a tree,
He plants peace.
Under its green curtains jargons cease.
Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;
Shadows soft with sleep
Down tired eyelids creep,
Balm of slumber deep.
Never hast thou dreamed, thou blessed tree,
Of the benediction thou shalt be.

He who plants a tree,
He plants youth;
Vigor won for centuries in sooth;
Life of time, that hints eternity!

- Lucy Larcom
I'm really beginning to get very excited about my upcoming trip to Horqin in Inner Mongolia and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan, as part of this year's Timberland Earthkeepers contingent.

It's fascinating to see how long-term commitments have helped drive change in this part of Inner Mongolia, and as recounted by Cheryl, one of the Timberland staff I met up with to find out more about the trip, one can really witness how this concerted effort has led to some improvement over the years, restoring the degraded grasslands and transforming them back into green pastures, when previously, overgrazing and overuse of scarce water resources had turned them into barren deserts.

Planting saplings, 2010;
(Photo from Timberland Singapore)

Grace Chua, who is a journalist with The Straits Times, also made the same trip to Horqin back in 2009, and wrote a couple of articles based on her experiences.

Grace Chua in her 'obligatory silly photo';
(Photo from Grace's Facebook album)

Here's a snippet of the article she wrote for Eco-Business, The race to halt Inner Mongolia's desertification:
Formerly, the people of Inner Mongolia made their living by riding and herding, with some agriculture thrown into the mix. Development has enabled them to farm intensively, ride skateboards and watch television. But development, in the form of overgrazing, overpopulation and agriculture have taxed the land; Inner Mongolia's population has quadrupled to about 24 million, and the number of sheep, cows and goats has shot up in tandem. Two of China’s largest firms in its nascent dairy industry – Yili and Mengniu – are in the autonomous region.

The result of all this is desertification. It's the same sad story: land is grazed or cleared for mono-cultures of corn or millet or sunflowers. Sun and wind strip the top layers of exposed soil, the soil loses water, and the land is left less fertile.

Then, there are the ferocious dust storms that sandblast the region in spring, blowing as far as Japan or Korea and grounding flights for lack of visibility. Even in the off-season, the wind carries fine grit that gets into eyes and leaves faint scratches on skin. If ever one needed an illustration of man-made climate change on a human time scale, this is it.

Grace helping to prune a poplar;
(Photo from Grace's Facebook album)

Follow the link to read the rest of the article, including a potential long-term challenge faced by the groups working to fight desertification, as well as for further information about how increasing urbanisation in Inner Mongolia can paradoxically help spur interest in conservation.

The fence protects the vegetation from excessive trampling and grazing by livestock;
(Photo by Cheryl Kow)

Here's another article, which she wrote for The Straits Times, Turning the brown back to green:
For decades, the desert sands of Inner Mongolia have crept south, swallowing whole villages and turning six million hectares of grassland into barren waste each year.

But even as northern China confronts its worst drought in 60 years, with five million people lacking access to water, one small fraction of the desert is getting a little bit greener.

The scrubby, 1,800ha area in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, about 700km north-east of Beijing, has help from a Japanese non-profit organisation named Green Network.

It operates in tandem with Chinese and Japanese universities, and corporate sponsors like electronics giant Hitachi and United States outdoor apparel brand Timberland, which sends volunteers from its Japan and Asia-Pacific offices, including Singapore.
Grace writes on environment-related issues for The Straits Times, and covers a range of topics, including sustainable energy, wildlife, conservation biology, natural heritage, agriculture, food security, green transport, recycling, and pollution. Say what you want about press freedom in this country, but Grace plays a valuable role in helping to publicise Singapore's natural heritage and environmental efforts, and it's always wonderful to have her on our shore trips. If you read an article in the papers that's written by her and found it informative, do tell her!

The 2010 Timberland Earthkeepers contingent;
(Photo from Timberland Singapore)

This year, I am heading to Horqin with the knowledge that I will be carrying on the legacy of others before me. I will get to see for myself the fruits of their labour, and perhaps, I may end up sitting in the shade of a tree that has grown from a sapling planted 10 years ago. And I hope that in future years, others will have the opportunity to carry on the hard work of my counterparts and I. It's clear that this is no greenwashing or just a one-off vanity project, but part of a larger sustained effort to make a difference. The individuals involved may not always be the same every year, but the objectives remain unchanged. And for that, I salute NGO Green Network, and the companies that have been committed to this project, like Timberland and Hitachi, for their dedication.

The trees which were planted years ago have since grown, and serve as windbreaks;
(Photo by Cheryl)
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

-Nelson Henderson