We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
First: we’re above the choking air of the plains. Stubble smoke, industrial pollution, and the dust of ego-massaging, destruction-construction, don’t reach us. (The decision to build a bigger house, in these troubled times, is a wasteful and dangerous act of self worship?)
Second: the Winter Line testifies to our unique position. We are south-facing, with the High Himalayas towering behind us, and the Shiwalik-enclosed Doon Valley below. Sun-heated air from the Valley rises but, before it can flow away, heavier winter-cooled air from the northern heights rushes in, trapping it. The different densities of the hot and cold air cause a refraction of sunset light: the Winter Line. The pressure-cooker action of the heated Doon ensures a constant renewal of Mussoorie’s air as it rushes down, and unpolluted air from the Higher Himalayas streams in.
Third: we, in our 189-year-old cottage, are served by over 100, solar-powered Oxygen-generators and humidifiers. They are self-renewing, require virtually no maintenance, and their waste is bio-degradable, enriching our garden. Their brand-name? Himalayan Oak, locally known as Banj. Traditionally, under the tutelage of their foreign mentors, our forest departments were trained to treat jungles as exploitable resources, not as the essential foundations of our survival. The colourless nations treated ‘coloured’ people in the same way, building their civilisations on inflated theories of superiority.
Trump and his admirers still suffer from this delusion but, clearly, that won’t last for long.
To get back to our forests, we must realise that trees can no longer be treated as the American stock-breeder treats his cattle: objects to be bred, fattened and slaughtered for human consumption.
It is a fact, however, that our human dental structure shows that we have evolved, over millions of years, as both vegetable and flesh eaters. Dietetic preferences are, consequently, a matter of living conditions which, in course of time, have acquired the sanctity of faith. Now that scientific research has established that plants have feelings, respond to threats to their survival, and generally prefer living and even sharing resources within their community, there is little logic in distinguishing between veg and non-veg on, so-called, moral grounds.
Having said that, however, it is more than likely that foods will, increasingly, be grown in vats in food-factories, with textures and flavours being added to replicate everything produced on farms. The pandemic’s depletion of the labour market, its increasing reliance on distant-employment and digital interaction, will encourage this trend exponentially. This, in turn, is likely to free vast regions of the earth from mass human interference.
Predictably, this will also raise forests back to their premier role: as the creators and sustainers of life on the surface of the earth. This is not a wild flight of fancy, fit to be included in our Mussoorie Mythistory stories! It is not Myth. It is History: a history that goes back Thousands of Millions of years!
At that time the earth was a hot and hostile place. Its atmosphere smelt of rotten eggs and we would not have been able to breathe it. The ocean could have been as warm as our blood is, today. Then something strange happened. Probably carried in by a bit of meteoric dust, (45,000 tons of it land on our earth every day even now), a strange chemical compound arrived from outer space. It was absorbed by one of our microscopic forms of life and it became a symbiot: a shared-life partner. This spouse gave its co-host a remarkable ability: the power to use sunlight to convert carbon-dioxide and water to create carbohydrates and give off oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis. It is the air supply provider of all the oxygen inhaling and carbon-dioxide exhaling life on our planet.
The oceans’ solar-energy powered plants slowly crept onto land, becoming our mosses of the bryophyte parivar. These pioneering mosses evolved into our great forests which are still responsible for producing the oxygen that we, and all animals, need to survive.
This is why we congratulate our Forest Department for its most creative scheme. It wants to establish a Moss Garden in Uttarakhand. Hopefully it will be as beautiful, and serene, as Japan’s one in the Zen Buddhist temple of Koinzan Saiho-ji, in Kyoto.
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)