rotating header

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A different kind of Saturday Rounds

About half of our Saturday mornings require rounds in the hospital.  Because sickness does not take weekend breaks . . however this Saturday our new half-time Kenyan pediatrician (YEAHH) and our kind 3-month German volunteer were covering.  Julia and Acacia had early volleyball practice, Scott had his own rounds, Jack and Caleb were wiped out in bed . . so I was free to join a small group of RVA staff and local Kenyans for a forest walk.  I thought we would be birding.  And we did hear a number of interesting bird calls, and glimpse a hornbill, batis, swallows, parrots, warblers, etc.  However the primary purpose of the walk was to be present in the forest, appreciating the beauty and diversity while patrolling for illegal loggers and charcoal burners.  This is a protected national forest, but year by year human misuse and encroachment increasingly threaten the ecosystem.

The forest canopy has been thinned so that the floor is bushier than it used to be.  And dotted with clearings, where the old trees have been cut down.  Here is a fresh one. 

The men I hiked with had decades of experience in these woods.  And they mourned their passing.  We noticed a landslide on the far hill of a ravine, just below a clearing that had been cut.  Not trees, nothing to hold the soil on the mountain.  Sad, and dangerous.

 But they didn't just mourn.  They hiked with shovels and hoes.  So that when we came upon two smoking charcoal pits, they were ready for action.  The elusive charcoal burners cut protected trees, then bury the logs under layers of sticks and dirt for a slow low-oxygen burn that will dehydrate and lighten the fuel into charcoal while still preserving some of its stored organic energy.  This is lucrative, but inefficient.  Not to mention illegal.  To discourage them our group uncovered the smoldering pits and scattered the logs far and wide.      And then called the forestry service who is supposed to be stopping this abuse of the environment.  In a poor country it is difficult for entrepreneurs to resist the pull to make some money off trees, and equally difficult for the officials to resist the pull to make some money off looking the other way. 

 I thought of Jesus in the temple, scattering the tables of the money changers.  Perhaps the next day they would all be back.  But His action demonstrated resistance to an evil.  He did more than advise, he put some muscle behind making a change.  His anger ruined some incomes, but protected the majority who were being taken advantage of by the illegal actions of a greedy few. 

Our local church, the school staff, a local NGO called Care of Creation, neighbors, police, forestry service personnel, and the press are all beginning to cooperate to save the remnant of this forest.  Not quite the same as resuscitating a baby on a Saturday morning, but in the long run the effect is similarly life-affirming and future-oriented.  A privilege to participate.

No comments: