People fascinate me. Especially the ones that believe in action rather than mere words. I love listening to experiences of different people. My belief is every story helps you learn something and be a better human being. This post is about one such person I had the opportunity to listen to the other day during an award felicitation ceremony at the school my daughters attend. The theme of the program was ‘Paryaavaran Samrakshan’ which translates to Environment Conservation.
We knew the chief guest has arrived as we overheard one of the teachers. And then I heard the sports teacher instructing the guard that the van has some 300-350 plants which he had to get unloaded. And then I moved on and handed over both the girls to their assigned teachers in the respective classrooms. When the function started and it was mentioned that the chief guest was one Swami so-and-so, I lost interest. Why? Because I do not believe in self-proclaimed god-men. I do not believe in people who give lectures on how life must be led spiritually and then torture young kids in the disguise of being a swami. To me, the chapter was closed. Some swami will utter some nonsense and that’ll be it.
It was only after the cultural program that the chief guest was invited to speak. Speak he did. Inspire he did. Not just with his words, but with his deeds.
Before I get into the details of his talk I would want you to go through this short video.
Swami Prem Parivartan he was introduced as. But he is popularly known as Peepal Baba. In his own words, he has planted over 1.5 crore trees since 26th January, 1977. And over 1 crore 5 lakhs of those are alive today. He comes from a family of doctors and had joined a premier Medical College for a few months. But he quit that as he was passionate only about this one deed: Planting trees.
Why is he so passionate about planting trees?
He says his teacher, Ms. Williams, inspired him to start this journey at the age of ten in 1977. She had told her class that river Yamuna will completely dry up by the year 2027. And he had asked what he could do to save the river. She had told him that planting more and more trees is all that can save the planet. Something we have all heard from our teachers. Something we all read, listen and preach as part of our ‘Save the Environment’ citizen responsibility. But how many of us have actually done something to save the planet? I know I haven’t done anything. And this one man, all this while kept silently saving the planet in his own capacity. Ms. Williams told him that just planting trees was not sufficient, but taking care of them, naming them, coding them and maintaining a record was equally necessary. The garage in his parental house in Pune, India still houses the diaries and journals that have complete records of the trees planted by him while the vehicles get parked outside.
All of the above might sound like something they say to inspire a toddler or a teenager. But, the facts and figures will alarm us. I’m sharing some of the important ones here.
- Infant mortality up: 136 deaths in 3 mths – At least 70% of all children in Delhi suffer from pulmonary respiratory diseases. Nebulizers have become a necessity in houses with children below the age of 10. What we do not realize is that we are making our children inhale steroids. Yes! The Asthalin or Budecort respules that we confidently make them inhale because of the doctor’s prescription are nothing but harmful steroids that can affect their mental and physical growth. This is from my personal experience.
- Will Delhi be Pollution Free: MODI OR KEJRIWAL? – This was one letter that shocked every Delhite in the month of June. Harris quotes “nascent areas of research suggesting that pollution can lower children’s IQ, hurt their test scores and increase the risks of autism, epilepsy, diabetes and even adult-on-set diseases like multiple sclerosis”. Did we ever hear of these 20-30 years ago?
- 80 People Die in Delhi Everyday From Air Pollution, Parliament is Told – Mr Javdekar said, “The studies indicate that several pulmonary and systemic immunity and damage to chromosomes and DNA and other health impairments are associated with cumulative exposure to high level of particulate pollution that increases the risk of various diseases including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.”
- Air pollution– the 5th leading cause of death in India claimed 35,000 lives in the past decade – Study published in the journal Environmental Research claimed that mother’s exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and the child’s exposure during the first two years of life increases the child’s risk of suffering from autism spectrum disorders. The researchers found that children who fell into higher exposure groups are 1.5 times likely to suffer from ASD
- Air pollution: Why a clutch of expats in Delhi are moving back home – The situation is so bad in Delhi that its air has PM2.5 concentrations of 153 micrograms and PM10 concentrations of 286 micrograms. The permissible level for PM2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre and PM10 is 50.
Peepal Baba (yes, I would like to address him as Peepal Baba instead of Swami Prem Parivartan) said that about 300 to 500 plants would produce the right amount of oxygen required for an adult per day. But it’s much harder to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide the plants absorb, especially if every time a person breathes out, they inhibit oxygen production. He aptly said that a tree is a natural ventilator with added benefits like fruits, nesting area, shadow among many others.
Amongst the other things that he mentioned, this one shocked almost everyone. If a nuclear war breaks, it will take at least 40 days for life on earth to be destroyed completely. But if we remove all trees from the earth, it will take just 4 minutes to destroy life on earth completely. Peepal Baba also clarified a lot of misconceptions that I had since I have an interest in gardening and keep some plants on my terrace. According to him, gone are the days where one person planting just one tree would have been sufficient. We have reached a level now where at least 50 trees need to be planted and nurtured by each one of us to neutralize the negative impact that we have been making on our planet. He also requested all the parents, teachers and kids to avoid using harmful pesticides and chemicals as it all comes back to us eventually.
As the program concluded, we were all requested to pick one sapling and plant it in a location and nurture it. I picked a Neem sapling because the firstborn has learnt a detailed lesson on Neem last year. Neem is a wonder tree and each of its parts is highly useful. It doesn’t rot easily as it is itself a disinfectant.
Imagine the impact we can bring in if all of us join him in saving our planet. At least plant one tree a week, a fortnight, a month or a year. Why not pledge to plant and nurture a tree on every birthday in the house? That’ll mean at least four trees from my house every year.