Feeling hot? Plant more trees!

Published May 25, 2024
Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

When it gets too hot in summer, like now, we all use the most common ways to cool down. But whatever we do, be it having ice cream or staying in an air-conditioned room, the cooling effect is only temporary and limited to us or those around us. These steps do not lower the atmospheric temperature or provide long-term solutions because they do nothing to help the earth cool down.

So the surest, most effective, low-cost and long-term way to bring down the temperature in summer is by planting more trees. Yes, it’s something we all know and hear a lot about, but it’s also something that very few of us do.

Tell me, how many of you, my dear readers, have planted a tree? Or let’s put it this way, how many people you know have planted trees?

Well, I have, and some of you must have too, but the number is not as many as the trees that need to be planted to combat the problem of global warming and climate change we are facing like never before. Frankly, there is no magic number that we know of — but you know what, with almost eight billion people in the world, and with each person planting a tree at least once in their lifetime, we can be sure that eight billion trees will do their magic.

Rather than going deeply into the science of why we need to plant trees and what trees do for the environment — which I am sure, all you smart kids reading this already know and it will need a separate, detailed discussion — I want to talk about the practical aspects involved in planting a tree and how you all can easily do it. And, trust me, once you have planted a tree, seen it grow all tall and shady, you would never want to stop planting trees. The pleasure is similar to what a parent experiences when they nurture their child and see him or her grow up into an amazing person.

Wherever you live, be it in a big city or a small town, in a large house with a garden or a small apartment in the middle of hundreds of other apartments, you can still plant trees in your neighbourhood. Let’s see how it can be done.

Start from your home first

Since those who do not have a garden or farmland do not have the opportunity to just start right away and plant a tree, you need to do some research and planning. Start by making tree planting a topic of discussion the next time you gather at the dining table or are sitting with the family.

Float the idea to your parents that you want to plant a tree around the house, in your neighbourhood or on your street. Ask a parent or elder to help you select a spot, talk to a nursery person or a gardener, select a species that would grow well in your area and is native to it and, basically, help you plant at least one tree.

Select the right spot

Take a walk around the likely spots around your house or neighbourhood, where a tree can grow without causing a hindrance or encroachment of some kind. It is best to plant a tree close to your house so that you can take care of it.

If you really look around where you live, you will find so many open spaces, by the sidewalk, your house’s boundary wall or a ground that is just filled with trash. A nice neem (Azadirachta indica) or coconut tree will add such a pleasant green touch to the environment. And in a few years, you will see your whole neighbourhood transform into a green oases.

When selecting a spot, you also need to make sure there are no underground pipes or overhead wires on electric poles that will be disturbed by the roots or branches of the tree when it grows big. And if it is someone else’s property or outside someone else’s house, you need to get their permission to plant a tree. If you explain to them what your mission is, I am sure they will welcome your initiative and may even help you in caring for the plant.

A good spot to plant a tree would also be one where a nice big tree will one day provide shade to a home or structure, thus helping in keeping it cool. Or it can be by a roadside or corner of the street where people often stand as they wait for transport, or just sit and chat. Your aim behind planting a tree should be to one day have the grown up tree benefit anyone and everyone, not just yourself.

Illustration by Aamnah Arshad
Illustration by Aamnah Arshad

Prepare the ground

Home gardens and parks are layered with soil suitable for the growth of plants, but the open spaces that we are aiming to turn green are a mix of gravel, cement and rocks, so unsuitable for plants to thrive. So talk to the gardener who is aiding you to check the soil condition of the spot you have selected and if needed, ask him to improve the soil by mixing compost, etc, to help the plant survive in the long-term.

You may need some money at this point as well as in buying a nice sapling to plant. You can easily use your pocket money or ask your parents for help, since any cost that you incur will become a Sadaqah Jariyah that will get you ongoing reward from Allah (SWT), and which will be much more than what you will spend on planting a tree.

Select the right species and season to plant

Look around and see the kind of trees that are native to your area and which grow easily without needing too much care. Discuss with someone who knows more about gardening, like a gardener you took help from. Read up and educate yourself on this topic too, there is countless information online to help you.

It is also important to plant at the right time of the year so that the sapling not just survives, but also thrives. If it is not the right season to plant, then just do your research, select your spot and wait for the right time.

Nurture with love

You can plant the sapling yourself or at least be around when the gardener is doing it. Make sure to note the date and take a picture of the young plant to monitor its growth and save as a memory.

Consider the plant as your baby or pet, which you have to care for and nurture. So get all the necessary information about its care and begin your journey of being an environmentalist who is making the earth a healthier place to live. During the first few months or even a couple of years, you may need to care for it more, after that it will become deep-rooted and strong enough to thrive on its own.

If the sapling is at a distance from your place, it is best to ask an adult or the gardener who helped you plant it, to take care of it since it is not practical for you to go out on your own and do it regularly. And for this reason, I would suggest that you start with planting a sapling near your home so that you can also enjoy taking care of it and watching it grow.

The pleasure of seeing the tall branches of a tree you had planted swinging in the wind, casting a wide shade around it, and birds fluttering and chirping in it, is just beyond words.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 25th, 2024

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