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Plant a tree on Noruz
Help the environment and learn to cooperate

By John Mohammadi
December 9, 2003
The Iranian

I know, I know, it's far far to early to be talking about Noruz, but this can't wait. I have been thinking about a project for a while that all Iranians can participate in. In a word: Trees.

From now on, in addition to raising sabzi for Noruz and then wastefully throwing them out on Sizdah-be-Dar picnics, let's all start a new New Year's tradition of planting trees in Iran every year.

Think of it: Iran's population is around 65 million people. Now, assume that only 10% of the population actually bothers to plant a tree. And further assume that just 10% of the planted trees start to grow roots and live. And then, just to be pessimisstic, assume that just 10% of those trees survive various natural and man-made disasters and manage to establish themselves as part of a healthy ecosystem.

After all that, we would still be left with at least 65,000 trees every year! That's one heck of a lot of trees! Not a new Amazon forest, of course, but a very very good start, especially considering the magnifying effect that will cascade through the environment from each tree: new birds taht will make nests in the trees, new insects taht will live on the branches, new plants that will take root under the shade and protection of the trees and in the new dirt created by the falling leaves, etc. Each tree will also reduct pollution, stop the growth of desert wasteland, cool down everything in the hot summers too.

How can this be accomplished? Very easily.

Iranian culture already recognizes the value of planting things - Persian gardens are world-famous. School children even memorize the old poem about the king who encountered an old man planting a walnut tree. The king asks the old man why he's bothering to plant a walnut tree if he won't live to see it give fruit. The old man tells the king, "Others planted so that I could eat, so I will plant for others can eat."

Financially-speaking, it won't be expensive if the media is used to creat a demand for saplings by raising consciousness, especially if some mystical religious significance or good luck is associated with the planting and raising of trees (which should be easy enough to do). Then, once demand has been primed, the same peddlers who sell New Year gold fish could sell the saplings for a small profit.

Iranians living abroad can be encouraged to participate by contributing funds and having trees planted on their behalf. Television and radio shows can be dedicated to teach people how to plant and raise saplings, creating a sense of pride, competitiveness and accomplishment in doing so.

This project can make Iranians more informed and concerned about the environment. More importantly, this is a project that all Iranians can participate in so it is empowering: it will teach Iranians that they must take individual responsibility and cooperate together to overcome problems instead of simply complaining about how bad things are while waiting for some mystical self-appointed "savior" to take over the government from abroad and fix everthing. Then, once the idea is firmly established that to fix things, each person needs to do his or her own part, the same mentality can be directed towards other problems, such as the traffic situation.

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