Avenue of Baobabs

Have you ever seen photos of the famous Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar? Legend has it that the gods planted baobabs upside down. It does look strange to see the smooth cylindrical trunks topped by sparse root-like canopies of branches and leaves. Last night, Lucia, Asha and I watched an episode of the BBC documentary Last Chance To See that focused on the endearing lemurs ofMadagascar. I was somewhat shocked to discover that this huge island has already lost over 80% of its forest cover and is in grave danger of seeing even more of its land turned to desert as desperate slash and burn agriculture is still the norm for some desperate and ill-guided subsistence farmers and other forests are cleared to grow sisal. You can imagine the threat the disappearance of habitat makes to some of the world’s rarest species of animal. InMadagascar extinctions are occurring almost as rapidly as new species are discovered. It’s not a pretty sight. It turns out that the stately baobabs are the lone survivors of a once lush and complex forest. The wood of these intriguing trees is neither good for building nor for fires so the trees have been left as the last sentinels of what once was an environment which teemed with life and easily supported the humans and animals living in its shadows. Today, this place is a dusty reminder of the ignorance of man, baking under a relentless sun, unclouded by transpiration from the leaves of trees.

Dancing Lemur of Madagascar

There have been a number of mass extinctions over the prolonged course of life on this planet, but scientists say that none have been as extreme or have occurred in such a short span of time as what we are experiencing now. Isn’t it time for us all to take a close look at our lifestyles and reduce our consumption. Colonization continues unabated today, but it is an insidious, invisible colonization of consumption. In our global economy few see the source of the products we crave. But, it would appear entire ecosystems shudder under the weight of this onslaught of ignorance and greed. As Chief Seattle once said, Western man may yet discover he cannot eat money. Let us turn our vast collective intelligence to the restoration of the forests of this beautiful planet. Our very survival may depend on it.

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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com

 

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