There is something very powerful about feeling part of a greater whole, of experiencing a group consciousness to actively use your hands and see the difference you can make. This past weekend was spent up in the hills of Hogsback with my family and 250 other treevolutionaries with the aim of getting 2 400 indigenous trees in the ground and having a seriously good time while doing it. GreenPop, a Cape Town based organisation with a focus on cooling the planet through tree planting, have Reforest Fests in the Overberg and in Zambia and decided to branch out (pun intended) and transform the Wattle saturated hillsides of Terra Khaya Eco Backpackers in Hogsback to their former glory, something JRR Tolkien would have been proud of. After all, a runaway Wattle plantation looks nothing like the rich forests we ogle in Lord of the Rings and that richness speaks of a biodiversity upon which, for one, the endangered Cape Parrot depends. Have you ever noticed the eerie silence of alien tree forests? Our local birds, insects, animals and butterflies are not able to survive or thrive in these barren ecosystems which also effect our water and rivers with their very thirsty roots. But, as Shane Eades of Terra Khaya enlightened us, these alien trees have their part to play in the handover, they provide shade and shelter for the baby indigenous trees to grow and they act as soldiers on the edge of the natural forests, sacrificing themselves for firewood while protecting the natural trees from the same fate.
And so, we arrived from all over the country and the world in magical Hogsback, from Joburg to Cape Town, from Botswana to Germany and the US, and were treated to good food, unbelievable local music and the opportunity to become active members of the treevolution! There is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a freshly planted tree, with the sense of time and hope stretching into the future it brings. Especially when you are planting with your children and envision them as young adults visiting the forest they helped to plant. Goosebumps. And yet it was no easy task, how do you move 2 400 trees up a steep mountainside? With a human chain of course! And that is one sure way to feel connected and effective as a group, you pass to me, I pass to her and we make it happen, a human funicular! Those baby trees were touched, loved and handled with care by almost all of us there! So that by the time we got to actually planting the trees we all had a good sense of the part we play in the greater whole and that what we do, each one of us, matters. The atmosphere was so tangibly positive, there were no masks, no egos, just open faced smiles and the collective sense of we’re doing this thing and it feels GOOD! There was Jenny from Germany planting her very first tree alongside my seven year old daughter who has felt the soil on her hands for many years already. It was beautiful.
Afterwards, we danced the night away until our happily weary muscles could dance no more, then sat round the fire and reminisced with new friends and kindred spirits, feeling the glow of the treevolution in our veins. And as we made our way down the mountain the next day and spread out in different directions to our homes, I hoped that all the passionate people present would hold onto what they had experienced and continue with their everyday revolutions by making conscious choices for people and planet on a daily basis. And my deepest wish is that Eco Atlas will play a part in empowering these conscious choices as we interact with the give and take of our daily worlds and as we awaken to the fact that every choice we make can have either a positive or negative impact. Until we meet again, of course, on a hillside or African plain to feel the might of our many hands and the power of the whole.