The Changemaker

“How so ignorant of the humans to tirade about All Lives Matter, when they themselves don’t consider it, for the other lives they co-exist with.” Pinus spat out in disgust. 

“Truly said, brother. Humans are nothing but sheer selfish beings. They set out on a rage when it comes to them; when it is about them and for their personal benefit. Rest, they do not care to stop and think about us, or the other fellow beings,” added Quercus. 

The news of the recent outburst reached every corner of the earth, and to the Arbor community too. They couldn’t help but feel pity and disgust. 

Swietenia, who was listening to the conversation from a distance, couldn’t help but speak. “It’s not our fault that we don’t sympathize with their situation. Why at all should we? We have faced torments over centuries, by these humans who didn’t think twice, before cutting us down to pieces. Several of my family members fell prey to their greed. I have no heart to feel sorry for the humans.”

“I can feel your ache, dear Swietenia,” mumbled Juglans. “The ones who fell prey bled too. Yes, the colour wasn’t red, but the pain was alike. They couldn’t scream and cry out. But their agony was no less than what the humans feel when they are tortured; when they bleed and gasp; when their cuts burn.” 

Pinus, who stood tall and strong, at 165, looked quite grim. The recent loss of his best friend dampened his spirit. After all, they belonged to the same Pinaceae family. He wished the humans could mend their ways. But to his awe, all took a downward roll and towards the worst. Pinus prayed each day, to be taken away, for he was dying, from within.  Enough I have seen and can bear no more. Let them uproot me; let them dismantle my crown, and shred my trunk. Let them feed their greed with my soul.

“Are you alright, brother Pinus? Is something bothering you?” asked Quercus

“I’m not bothered about myself, dear Quercus. My time has come, and I’m well prepared to be taken down. I’m worried about mother earth, and all the species she houses. We were meant to live together peacefully. We were meant to co-exist, but the increasing greed of the humans, their selfish, unthought-of acts resulted in disasters, that even they struggled to handle. I’ve lived my happy days and is mature enough to endure every cut and varnish. I fear for the younger ones, who lose their lives at the early stages of growth. The humans are said to be the most intelligent beings, yet their actions speak otherwise.”

They were hurt, yet too helpless to revolt against the injustice. Suddenly, the whole vicinity became awkwardly silent. The crickets and the bees; the katydids and the cicadas, joined in to lament. The air stilled as if to show respect. The grave silence was disrupted by the musical and plaintive calls of a flock of Goldfinches, that flew above the dense woods. Beams of the dusking sun peeked in, as if to cheer; as if to instil hope.  

Juglans stirred. He wanted to break the monotony. “I never really understood these humans. They chop thousands of us down in one go and then plant few, in the name of plantation projects. They remove us from our roots but complains when the same falls on them. So hypocritical! Barren lands lay unused, while they clear forests just to build factories and skyscrapers. All in the name of evolution. It makes me sad when the so-called nature lovers, don’t pay heed and crush the gorgeous Crocus, Dandelions and Speedwells, on their way through the forests and grasslands. The humans, strangely find fun in plucking leaves and flowers for no good reason. And then, they scream and cry for justice. They fight and create ruckus stating All Lives Matter, but they miss to show compassion to other fellow beings.”

Everyone heard in silence. As dusk left them at their own mercy, night tiptoed in to ease their minds. Fireflies flew in to give company, and the rest got together, to create their nocturnal chorus. 

That familiar sound. For the Arbor community, it was the sound of forthcoming death. It was approaching to gobble a few from the community. None knew about their fate, but all feared. They feared that giant like machine; they feared the sight of those trucks that came to haul away their remains. 

It wasn’t one of those peaceful dawns, for the humans arrived to take them away from their land. They weren’t there to embrace the psithurism, of the tall primeval pine or the gnarled spruce. 

They were there to wound and injure; slash and shear. Without their consent; against their will of the Arboles. 

A husky, chubby man, with a cowboy hat and a hi-vis jacket, got off the Chrysler Dodge and lighted a cigar. He wasn’t one of the regulars. The man gathered his team and got into some kind of discussion. Shortly after, the crew moved towards the community entrance.  

Despite the strong breeze, Swietenia remained calm. She was just 20, but the humans wouldn’t care about her rings. They will bare and rip her at their evil will. She cannot even join the MeToo movement to voice her say. She waited for the deafening moment when the chainsaw will penetrate her cambium and spilt the heartwood.  

To their surprise, the humans carried no machines with them. The chubby guy went from one tree to the other, touched each and placed his ears on the trunk as if to detect that ultrasonic scream. It was quite surprising to the Arboles. The team toured around the community, went across to the other side, re-visited few of the members, took some measurements, jotted things in their notebooks, and left.  

“The humans left? Without getting any of us?” Quercus and Juglans jointly reacted to the situation. 

“Do you think the new guy heard something? He placed his ears on our trunks, so…” Juglans tossed a question that made everyone wonder.

“I don’t know what it was, but I’m glad we got saved for the day.” Swietenia rustled, cheerfully. 

A week later, on a sunny morning, the chubby guy arrived, but this time, he was alone. He got off his car, lighted a cigar, and walked towards the woods, that housed the Arboles. Once he reached the centre, he spread his arms and took a deep breath. The members waited in anticipation.  

“Hello there! I am Ben. How have you guys been? I see a lot of new members now.” He walked up to Pinus and hugged him tightly. “I missed you so much. Dear old Pinus, do you not remember me?”

Pinus rustled and twitched his twigs to reciprocate. 

“Actually, it’s been years since I last visited you, with grandpa. We left the country when I was a little boy. Remember our final goodbye? Phew! It was hard to leave, but I couldn’t revolt. Since then, I longed to return to this beautiful countryside; I longed to meet you and the rest. The place has changed a lot since then, but I’m happy to be back.” Ben sounded cheerful. 

Pinus remembered him well. He was the little boy from the neighbouring parish. That was the time when the community reverberated with his jovial giggles. How can he forget his little friend! The only human friend he ever had. He was glad to have Ben back amongst them. Pinus shared the news with the new members. For them, it was incomprehensible. That day onwards, Ben kept visiting them on and off. He brought no machines and trucks with him. Eventually, the Arbor community accepted him as their friend. He was caring and harmless. Somehow, he understood them.

One fine day, Ben returned looking quite distraught. He seemed worried and restless. 

“Look, Ben’s here, but why is he so quiet today? He didn’t even greet us. I wonder what happened. Wish I could ask.” Swietenia was quite fond of him, for he was compassionate and friendly. She urged Pinus to communicate with Ben.

Pinus twitched his twigs. Few cones dropped on Ben, who sat leaning against his strong, thick trunk. Ben looked up, heaved a deep sigh and lit a cigar. 

“I think it’s time for you all to know the truth. Pinus, your community is in grave danger. An industrialist wants to set up

some factories here. He pulled a few strings, and the forest department accepted his proposal. Coincidentally, I work for

the same department and was assigned to lead the task, of clearing the vicinity. But after my first visit, I made up my mind to request the officials, to amend the proposal. They were of no help, so I filed for a stay, on the proceedings. All I requested was to exclude the woods, but my pleas failed to stir their thoughts. I waged a war, but I’m afraid, I won’t win.”

The Arboles stood motionless. Together with the other inhabitants, they will soon be the victims of democide. And yet, they can’t act or react; they can’t voice their say to the media. They can’t share their woe stories with the world. 

Juglans rustled. “We heard Ben, yet, somehow I see a ray of hope, in these darkest of hours. And I think we must support Ben in his fight for justice. He is doing it for us. Let’s join hands, and do all within our capacity to keep his spirits up. He needs you Pinus, and he needs our support too. Whatsay, everyone?”

Ben was startled by sudden susurrations, that combined the whirr of a strong breeze, rustle of gazillions of leaves, and the orchestra by the Orthoptera family. As he looked around, a bright smile surfaced on his face. He spread his arms and screamed, “Yes, yes, yes, we can.” He looked energetic and positive. “I got your message dear friends, and I shall leave no stone unturned to save you, my beloved community. He hugged them all and left for the day.” By evening, he gathered several of his friends, re-wrote his petition, and voiced his concern on every social media platform. Within minutes, millions of humans came forward to support his cause. The Arbor community saw advocates of every colour and creed. 

“Are we dreaming or is this real? The humans are supporting us. They are speaking for us; they came together to save us.” Quercus, along with the rest of the Arboles, was in utter shock. 

Ben was firm on his stand. He spoke about the importance of protecting forests and wildlife. He advised people not to harm the environment. He praised organizations whose operations were environment friendly. He advised people to be compassionate towards other living beings. He explained about the hazards of mass destructions of forests. He held public meetings to voice his concern. 

Finally, after several arguments in the court of law, the verdict came in his favour. Ben thanked everyone for their support and spoke for one more time. 

“Dear friends, we are here to co-exist. The trees cannot speak, but unlike us, they too have feelings. Their heartwood is a dead part, but trust me, it’s as alive as any human heart. When they get taken down, they feel betrayed by us. We say All Lives Matter, but when it comes to respecting the lives of these mute beings, we fail. Each living being on this earth has a purpose to serve. By cutting down trees, and by destroying the wildlife for no good reason, we are snatching their right to live. That is wrong and we know it well.  We are actually hindering them to co-exist.

They are no different from us. Try to communicate with compassion, and I’m sure they will reciprocate. Trust me when I say, there’s magic in the forest. Jointly we saved thousands of lives today. We helped those beings, who can’t fight for themselves. The statement All Lives Matter isn’t just for us. It isn’t, All Human Lives Matter. Unlike us, they value their lives too. So, let’s take an oath together, to value the real essence of the statement we toss at random.”

Ben’s efforts were appreciated by humans from every corner of the world. To the Arbor community, he was no less than an Angel. After all, the humans did stand firm on their belief, that All Lives Matter.
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