The Art of Living Lithuania joined hands with the Lithuanian government on the national tree planting project organized all over the country on the 16th of April, 2016.
The Government’s Forest Research Enterprise led the tree-plantation initiative across Lithuania. Members of political parties, soldiers and young children joined in and planted 500,000 trees, which translates to 10 hectares of plantation.
170 Art of Living members from 17 towns took part, planting 33,270 saplings of species native to the country.
The Forest Research Enterprise is a large organization with branches all over the country tasked with care of the forests. The residents of each region can buy saplings from them. Corporates and business houses are also involved in this project.
Art of Living volunteers Karolina and Gintare from Lithuania share their experiences on the tree-planting initiative.
Karolina: The national tree-planting project is an annual event organized by the Lithuanian Forest Enterprise. The Art of Living members join this initiative every year, in different parts of the country.
This year it was special because of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s birthday. The participation was massive with more cities and towns contributing and they coordinated with each other. We announced the programs through Satsangs and our Google groups.
There were also members of the public, employees from companies and organizations, even young children from orphanages. We planted local species suitable for our environment – pine, fir, etc. Birches are planted in a row to act as a wall that arrests forest fires, because pine and fir trees can turn very dry and flammable.
The Forest Enterprise specialists explained to us the importance of doing this. They showed us how to plant the sapling correctly and told us about the medicinal uses of these species.
We do take care after planting, but as our climate and soil are good, minimal care is needed.
Part of these forests are also felled for commercial purposes by companies, because wood is needed and, also, the Enterprise needs finances for its ongoing activities. But this is done under strict environmental rules to ensure that the mandatory minimum forest cover is not affected.
Lithuanians love nature and take care of their forests and their environment. It is in their blood, I think!
Gintare: We were 10 volunteers who joined a larger group of 60 volunteers from different professions and of different ages.
The Art of Living became involved in an unusual way. Some time back, our town’s community had undertaken a cleanliness campaign. It worked out well. But after sustained efforts at cleaning the environment around our town, and the residents also starting to dispose garbage responsibly, the volunteers had practically no service project. So we looked around and we came to know about the tree-plantation drive and decided this was a useful initiative to participate in.
We have planted birch, fir, pine and alder – species indigenous to Lithuania. A few of these have medicinal and food value. Birch twigs and leaves are used to increase blood circulation when taking a sauna-bath. Tea can be made from birch leaves. Pines cones yield edible nuts.
But these practices are almost forgotten. A few are being revived now.
Lithuanians love and take care of the environment. There has been a tradition in my country of regarding forests as sacred places where people prayed. During times of foreign occupation of Lithuania, our freedom fighters from these areas around used to take refuge in these forests.
Sometimes we have forest fires, and we feel saddened to lose our ancient trees. We also have a dilemma with cormorants (a species of bird) that nest on trees in some areas and destroy the trees with their voluminous droppings.
A certain percentage of the trees are chopped each year to provide wood for construction of homes. As the weather here is very cold, it is only wood that can give us the necessary insulation and protection from the severe cold climate we have. To replace the felled trees, replanting goes on. But I grew up amidst forests, and the trees I loved are gone. This is how it works out!
However, we have strict laws and regulations regarding felling of trees.
After the saplings were planted, we have been asked to take care of them till they have grown. We are happy that our children will be able to enjoy the benefits of our efforts!