house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The World I Give You

Parents of Monção, pick up your pens and start writing.

"Dear ..............(name of child/children),

There's something you need to know. In the autumn of 2010, the town of Monção proceeded with the plans of turning the park around the old city walls into a car park.

You may/may not remember this strip of land as we had it when you were growing up. Wide weathered alleys in a leafy park, where the market came every Thursday. On any other day, the place was peaceful, languid and lovely in the shade of ancient sycamore trees.

Sycamore. Plane tree. Platan. Any tree of the genus Platanus, esp. P. occidentalis, the buttonwood or sycamore of North America, having shallowly lobed ovate leaves, globular seed heads, and wood valued as timber.

Today the strong green limbs of these trees were torn by the claws of tractors. Then a metal saw cut the trunks down. It took a long time, the machine is still screaming and might have to start again tomorrow. The alleys were full of tree dust and the stench of burned gasoline.

Old people stopped to watch the show. Some approve, because they see the trees as untidy, always shedding leaf and flower. Moreover, they call this unruly vegetal behaviour 'pollution'. This is very wrong, I hope you know that I believe it to be wrong, even as I don't do anything about it. I really don't know what can be done.

I didn't know it was going to happen. I was simply taking a shortcut through the park, like I always do, and today it was a bombsite, a vision of hell. Other people - your friends' parents - were passing by and we stood and watched for a stunned moment, then went on to pick you up from school. Everyone was in a hurry, what with office, school run, shopping, cooking to be done. No one made a fuss, no protest was heard.

I don't know what made my generation believe that a car park (twenty-cents-an-hour) is better than two-hundred-year-old-trees. I don't know how one person, or a few, can decide this on your behalf.

On your behalf, not ours, because you will be growing up without the trees. You will feel the the scorching sun on your backs, on the metal skin of your cars. You won't smell the first green of spring, you won't hear birds, they'll be long gone. You won't walk along these alleys with the persons you love, weaving between silver tree trunks, dizzy with dreams.

By doing this today, we are effectively taking a little bit of beauty, health and joy out of your lives, we are robbing you of your memories. A little bit today, a little bit tomorrow. We are proving ourselves unable to stop the shameful march of what we call 'progress'. What history, and you and your own children will undoubtedly call 'decline'. 'Incompetence', 'stupidity', 'crime'. The detested daily acts of your parents.

We teach you to love nature, to protect trees, and as you sit in your classrooms learning the lesson like good children, we cut them down and poison every river and forest and field.

We tell you to not tolerate injustice and crimes against innocents. In the same breath, we accept the murder of these ancient trees (a crime and a tragedy if ever there was one). We tolerate the injustice of robbing you, our own innocents, our dearest souls, of your future, crumb by crumb.

If you get the chance, try to do better than we did. If you see a crime in progress, like we witnessed today, stop and scream until somebody listens. Get your friends and wrap yourselves around whatever trees are still standing until they're left alone by your own leaders and planners and engineers.

We amply deserve the planet we're destroying, but you don't.

I'm sorry, kid."

That's it, parents. Having written the above (or your own version of it), have the courage to sign it. You might as well start a folder, it looks like you'll have to write such confessions to your children on a regular basis.

Or better still, start doing something about it. I wish I could end by saying something hopeful and uplifting, like 'there's still time' but, looking over the barren land, I can't. Even so, try to do something about it. Save your souls.


At 17 September 2010 at 09:22 , Anonymous Rupert Wolfe Murray said...

I remember that park, it was stunning. I can't believe they did this. I thought Portugal was above such barbarity, after all it advertises itself in the Economist as one of the most environmentally friendly countries in Europe.


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