Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working With Nature

an oak beam roofThere is a wonderful story about an old University where the oak beams supporting the roof in the main hall needed to be replaced. The Dean and the board were stumped. They could not afford to replace the beams with oak but did not want to use modern materials as that would destroy the character of the building. One day the Bursar was sitting in the garden looking troubled and the gardener asked him why. The gardener was astonished and pointed to yonder field where there was a row of oak trees. He explained that those oak trees had been planted when the hall was built for precisely that purpose and that he and his forebears had been tending them until they were needed.

That’s what sustainability is. Replacing what you use, or encouraging nature to do it for you, so that future generations do not go without.

What of the rainforests? Well, all is not lost. The Guardian reports on the rejuvenation of a rainforest at Samboja in Borneo. Six years ago the trees had been cut for timber, the land burnt, and in place of what should be some of the richest biodiversity on the planet were thousands of acres of grass.

Dr Willie Smits, the Indonesian forestry expert, raised money to buy 5,000 acres and set about planting seeds collected from more than 1,300 species of tree, more even than would have lived in the original forest. These were planted with a special 'micro-biological agent' made from sugar, excrement, food waste and sawdust - and cow urine.

an Orangutan and a human shaking hands

Already Smits and his team claim the forest is 'mature', with trees up to 35 metres high. Cloud cover has increased by 12 per cent, rainfall by a quarter, and temperatures have dropped 3-5C, helping people and wildlife to thrive. Nine species of primate have also returned, including the threatened orang-utans. Smits said 'If you walk there now, 116 bird species have found a place to live, there are more than 30 types of mammal, insects are there. The whole system is coming to life. I knew what I was trying to do, but the force of nature has totally surprised me.'

Will it catch on?


  1. Interesting news, though still not entirely encouraging. The six year project restablishes an area of woodland equivalent to just a seventh of that cut down each and every day. Fragemented woodland looses biodiversity. If all that is left is such fragments, then it could be difficult to find the necessary resources for such projects. The priority must surely be to reduce the current felling rates.

  2. You can find out more about the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, founded by Dr Willie Smits, at

  3. As Chris says, this is optimistic, but the world needs to learn better respect for nature and stop destroying it in first place.

    I absolutely adore the holding hands photo - a beautiful symbol of how we can work together with nature if we choose to.

    Deep in sowing, potting, weeding,

    love Dot.

    PS. did you hear the radio 4 'food programme' about local food, encouraging people to apply for grants to help start up more local food production ...

    now there's a thought ...

    Plus this great blog;

  4. B21 May I send thanks to The Aldersbrook Fayre (St Gabriel's Church) of 14th June 2008 and for the many and diverse stands that attended - including 'moi' tucked into the Friend's of The Earth Stand.
    It is these fayre's and meetings that do so much to promote: "the world needs to learn better respect for nature and stop destroying it in first place."
    Many thanks to Helen Bonnack for your determined efforts and making sure that each contributor was settled in their stands and that, in my case the PC and projector was catered-for.
    It is these unrecognized people that are the backbone of many events - they just get on with things and the best, such as Helen, make sure everyone is settled and happy.
    The subjects covered were many and diverse and many subjects brought interest to a further batch of people. just some of the subjects covered were: Organic Allotmnts, the Plight of Marsh Lane Allotments, SUDS, Front garden contribution to Flooding, The Redbridge Conversation, Tree management in Redbridge, The Natural Environment including meadows and wetland areas, The River Roding, The Airport changes and Flight path designationes and much more, as well as the wonderful catering from the show organisers and from some of the stalls.
    And to top-it-all the government laid on a Fly-Past for the show. Shute goes our carbon-footprint for the day - but we did spread the words of wonder and wizdom.