Trees for peace — There's much more to the story

Monday, March 12, 2018

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It's long been accepted that green areas, inclusive of trees and grass, have a calming influence on human beings.

Sadly, Jamaicans and their leaders tend not to connect the dots as they focus on reducing intolerably high levels of crime and bring peace to communities racked by violence.

Indeed, when Jamaicans speak of the need for socio-economic growth and development — which they hope will provide mass employment and thereby reduce crime — the sense is that they are in large measure visualising concrete and steel.

There doesn't seem to be much thought given to food for the soul, such as nature parks, trees, grass, and spaces for children and young adults to play.

In the nation's major cities and towns, open spaces are disappearing at an alarming rate, giving way to shopping centres, housing, et al — concrete and steel.

That's how Knutsford Park — now the New Kingston business district — disappeared. Pretty though it is, Emancipation Park is cold comfort, though people are instinctively thankful for small mercies.

We hope that plans for the long-talked-about Parliament complex at Heroes' Circle near downtown Kingston will leave the people of the communities around with sufficient space to breathe, relax and play. Still, we have our doubts.

We have come down this path largely as a result of a story published in this newspaper last week headlined 'Trees for Peace project launched at Mount Salem Primary'.

We are told that the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), in collaboration with Peace and Love in Schools (PALS) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, launched its Trees for Peace Planting Project last week on Peace Day.

Chairman of the VPA, Dr Elizabeth Ward, was reported as saying the initiative started jointly at the Mount Salem Primary and Junior High School in St James and Denham Town Primary School in Kingston, both located in zones of special operations (ZOSOs).

“The planting of trees symbolises hope and the continuity of life. The practice of planting trees for peace is a practical way of enhancing environmental and global education,” Dr Ward said.

Let's visualise the residents of communities across Jamaican working with their leaders and political representatives to identify areas for trees, grass, park benches; and setting aside a space for the children to play cricket, football, netball, basketball. It doesn't have to be a large space.

Think of 'no-man's-land' — that area on Collie Smith Drive separating Arnett Gardens (Concrete Jungle) from Wilton Gardens (Rema) in Trench Town — which was devastated by the politically tribal war of the 1970s, and which, to this day, four decades later, remains derelict, neglected. It is an eye sore and nightmarish reminder for all who endured that awful period.

What a difference trees and grass, park benches and children at play would make for no-man's-land and Trench Town. Now, just extend that wonderful vision across Jamaica.

The cynics will call us idle dreamers, but then they only say that because they are cynics.

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