[INSIGHT]Plants offer lessons to politicians

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[INSIGHT]Plants offer lessons to politicians

Though Friday was Arbor Day, my ears are waiting for the whispers of cherry blossoms from the south. Jeju Island has been hosting the Cherry Blossom Festival on or around Arbor Day every year since 1992. This time it was unusually warmer than in the past and people on Jeju were worried that the flowers would wither even before the festival opened.

So after a great deal of thinking, on March 19 the organizers decided to massage the base of the trees with ice. Why? To slow down the cherry trees' blooming processes.

But what I am waiting for is not the news of beautiful flowers. I would like to hear the outcome to the festival, which disturbed the order of the flowers.

I don't want to criticize the festival's idea of massaging a cherry tree. In fact, I feel more sad that modern society thinks about slowing down a tree, which was simply trying to bloom on time.

Neither plants nor animals do particularly well when they come in contact with human beings. A pet dog given "special treatment" is no exception, let alone such livestock as a cow or a pig.

Pet dogs must eat instant food for the convenience of the dogs' owners, and the dogs often have operations on their vocal cords. Do you think a dog is truly happy if it cannot eat well or bark freely but receives a luxurious beauty service worth 40,000 won ($30)?

Bishop Olivier de Berranger of Saint-Denis in France, says it best: "The belief that human beings own the earth comes from their arrogance." If humans think that way, it's likely that they also think "Christianity must learn from Buddhism."

According to Malcolm Wilkinson, a professor at Scotland's University of Glasgow, a tree screams when it is thirsty and bleeds when it is cut. We cannot hear its shriek and we don't think that the sap is blood. But the tree is alive.

You can see a Chinese orchid dancing to music at the Korea Floritopia, a flower festival starting April 26 in Anmyeon-do Island, South Chungcheong province. It's been said that the orchid doesn't dance when it is under stress. That fact is evidence that the plant has feelings.

If a tree's "Bill of Rights" is so necessary, then let's go back to a human being's normal thinking. One experiment has shown that an orchid grows by as much as 44 percent and that rice develops by as much as 50 percent - when music is played nearby.

A forest in the mountains can control floods, prevent landslides and provide clear water and fresh air. A forest is worth 50 trillion won, but too often we forget the the benefits. The cause of the yellow sand phenomenon, which dumps 80,000 tons of dust at a time on the Korean Peninsula can be found in the expansion of desert areas in western China. The main cause of desertification is that forests are being destroyed due to an increase in pasturing.

There are natural disasters and there are disasters caused by man seeking profits.

The ice massages given to approximately 300 cherry trees in Jeju cost 1.5 million won. The massage was possible because the festival organizers calculated a big profit, which they might get if everything looked in top form.

Even though an orchid surrounded by music is not so different from a cherry tree being massaged by ice, in terms of a human viewpoint, if I feel something different, is it really because of my obsession?

What we can gain from trees are not simply profits but lessons in profound silence.

For instance, stems demand sunshine and roots like underground darkness. When we hang a planter box upside down, a sprout's stem digs into the earth above while the root stretches downward, into thin air, and eventually withers and dies.

Jean Henri Fabre, a French scientist and writer, insisted that suicide by a plant in the planter was never the product of illusion or ignorance.

Mr. Fabre said that roots stretched downward, in the air, toward the real earth, while stems reached upward, toward the real sky. What a sorrowful stubbornness this is! Thus, it's not suicide but martyrdom that sacrifices itself for a principle.

This is the season for politics. However, we seem to be seeing only self-serving people who regularly and easily change words they once said. Mr. Fabre called epiphyte-like mistletoe, a thief that doesn't care for any soil, , even if that soil is fake soil that hangs over its head. Mr. Fabre wrote that people don't take their hats off to the mistletoe's shrewd talent. On the contrary, people shake off mistletoe that is damaging fruit trees.

The reason I feel that a plant or tree's effort, which is to stretch its stem to the sky and take root in the ground, is a noteworthy accomplishment is this: There are too many "thieves" out there who are busy taking advantage of the political season.


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The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Joseph W. Chung

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