Plant a Tree This Weekend

We’re expecting a beautiful weekend here in Virginia. As the weather warms up—here is a little motivation for going out and planting another tree.

Never has the crisis of climate change been made more real to me than on our recent visit to the Masai village and schools in southern Kenya. The whole area lies at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro—famous for its snows, which our Masai guide matter-of-factly mentioned are nothing to what they were at this time of year when he was a child. Even we could see the snows looked thin.

My first impression of the Masai village was that I had stepped into a National Geographic magazine depicting an early civilization. We were welcomed with incredible warmth—pulled into the semi-circle of dancing and singing women, and surrounded by young children working up the nerve to reach out and touch our strange hair and skin.

The ground was a dry, bare, red clay. The village was protected by a perimeter of thorny sticks and branches and a smaller corral of thorny branches made up the livestock pen inside. The rest, a collection of cow dung and stick huts. Invited inside one of these structures, we immediately noticed the smell cinders and smoke—though we couldn’t see. There was no chimney, and were no windows. The women build the huts just large enough to accommodate two sleeping spaces on stretched animal skins and a space in the center where they cook daily. You couldn’t help but imagine the health risks—and it was easy to see the place as fragile and exposed to nature.

The visit to the village schools the next day was a completely different experience. Yes, very limited in circumstances, but otherwise a school full of 800 beautiful children, dressed in uniforms, writing in their workbooks, and listening attentively to their teachers. We were struck by the million dollar views of Mount Kilimanjaro out the open windows. The buildings were solid cinderblock construction—there were even some quite impressive dormitory-style showers for the boarding students. It wasn’t until we learned that they hadn’t managed to get water to these showers that we realized that this familiar-looking school was actually as fragile not only as their village but as the whole community.

The water for the whole Masai population in this rift valley comes from a pipe that runs down from the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro. According to the National Science Foundation, these snows could be gone within another decade.

I saw the need for school supplies, a healthier way to cook, solar lanterns, but what this population really needs is for us to fight climate change. So, what can you do? Plant a tree this weekend.

Photo by Callie Broaddus