When we visited the Evergreen Forest Initiative in Auroville last week, it was a similar experience. Walking through the trees, learning about how to develop a proper forest without overexposing the land, losing too much water, while keeping your forest healthy. Dave, a local who has been working on forest development in Auroville for about 15 years, showed us around his forest. Pointing out the Australian trees, the work trees that have been around since Auroville was nothing but red baked clay, and the indigenous varieties that were planted not as often as he would have liked.
On my return today, to Dave's Evergreen, one of India's rare forests that stay green year round, I was struck by a much different image. The shade that encompassed you as you entered was replaced by a sea of branches. As I rode down the entryway, piles of sawed tree trunks invaded the dirt road, and I was overcome with greif. Last week we did a carbon capture initiative and I calculated how many trees we would have to plant to offset my plane ride over here. For a round trip flight from Paris to India, one should plant at least 20 trees. This does not count the scooters, taxis, food, or daily consumption of power through electronics. Together as a group we planted five.
Due to Cyclone Thane, Auroville lost 1.5 million trees overnight. 70% of it's forest is completely demolished. And yet, Dave was suprisingly optimistic today. Despite having spent his life growing trees and the last three days cutting them up with a machete, he understands that this new compost will allow more trees to grow in the future. Plus, most of the trees that were lost were non-indigenous. Clear cutting in a forest is never a good idea, but with his skill and knowledge, perhaps Auroville will have the opportunity to rebuild their forest with indigenous trees that are prepared to withstand bigger and badder cyclones in the future.