We can make a difference and save our planet

Corkman LIAM HUGHES has just returned from a year travelling in India. He explains how he was gripped by an initiative out there to plant more trees and help save the planet
We can make a difference and save our planet

DOING THEIR BIT:LiamHughes with fellow volunteers at the Varkala Beach Drive in India lastyear

“There is enough art in the world, but not enough eyes to see it.”

ON my adventures throughout the thrillingly bizarre and intricately patterned land of India, I encountered many wonderful and peculiar characters amongst ever-morphing backdrops.

It is one of the truly invaluable gifts one receives while travelling through this richly cultured land; every now and then, you come into contact with a soul that you recognise to be a considerably abundant source of light in this world.

Last September, while stopping by the seaside town of Varkala in India’s southern state of Kerala, I came upon a poster calling for volunteers to help with the cleaning up of the local beach. I thought it to be a good thing to get involved with and gave it some thought.

Later that day, I returned to my hostel and happened to meet the crew who were organising this ‘Varkala Beach Drive’. I got chatting to Pritesh Punia, an Indian traveller who told me of his organisation and what they had been doing in every town and city they have travelled to.

Pritesh, with the help of his friends, Ajayjeet and Christina, runs a non profit organisation called Being One Us, whose primary goal is to plant more trees across the globe, though their mission extends beyond the trees and across the rivers, streets and beaches of the world too.

Being One Us has absolutely no funding behind it and is run on a “fuel of love”, rather than being driven by frustration or fiery “activist aggression”.

This “fuel of love” is evident when you meet Pritesh. He exudes a state of calm, demonstrates a wisdom beyond his years and is very passionate about his vision.

His call for a revolution is more rooted in the rise of green leaves than the shedding of red blood. A clean, peaceful revolution that is built upon a deeper connection to nature as well as how we interact with each other as human beings.

If the planet is willing to provide for us, shouldn’t we listen to it? And if more than a handful of us feel this way, shouldn’t we listen to each other?

I began to ask Pritesh more about how he came to get involved with his mission and what sparked the development of Being One Us.

“It was last year, when I started my hostel and eventually we wanted to plant trees, you know, looking around at the environment, you see things. You see how money has a negative effect on people. So that was the first thing we wanted to avoid. When this factor has been extracted, you feel more connected to everyone around you, to nature, to people, you start respecting them.

“So we started teaching in an orphanage in Rishikesh called Ramnas Garden. Just teaching English and spending time with the kids.”

Pritesh talks of the seed that planted the idea for Being One Us. The seed was a word. 

“It came from the word ‘Karuna’. When there is love there is no boundary, no ego, no selfishness, everything goes, there is no doubt. When this love spreads from one person to every existence, that is where this word comes from, Karuna. Loving every single living existence without any selfishness or ego or boundaries, that’s what Karun ‘One Us’... Being one – everyone.

Pritesh adds: “So that was the idea, we just knew we wanted to help. As we were teaching these kids at the orphanage, we started noticing more problems around. When you understand one being, you start to understand others more and more. So eventually we understood the suffocation our society is going through.

“Because of us being humans, so many things are happening as a consequence. The environment is changing, the climate is changing and one person cannot do much to change things. That’s why there are so many organisations fighting for different causes that benefit everyone being on the planet.”

Going with the compulsion in his gut, Pritesh decided the world around him was in need of more trees. So he decided to make that a primary objective for his mission.

“Why specifically did I choose the trees? I don’t know, it’s the feeling I got inside, the nature gives so many things and the life begins with it and ends with it. Karuna, from there it is taking on its own meaning. I’ve seen the trees constantly being chopped down and destroyed, maybe I subconsciously chose to be here for the trees.”

Many people have this feeling at some point in their lives, as though they want to make a difference, to make a change and defy the injustices of the world. But how much can one person change?

Pritesh was quick to realise if he wanted to make a difference, he would have to first let his voice be heard, to raise awareness for the issues he wanted to face. Then the like-minded warriors would make themselves apparent.

Let’s look past the silly social stigmas or whimsical accusations of ‘tree-hugger!’ and give this some actual thought. We are using world resources at a quicker rate than we are actually able to replace them.

Shouldn’t we at least attempt to demonstrate a bit of foresight and start planting trees now? After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

If you are feeling frustrated with the state of the world and want to contribute in a way you feel can bring you closer to the idea of living within a cleaner, more sustainable environment, then reach out and find people like Pritesh, because you are not alone.

None of us are.

Find out more about Being One Us at www.beingoneus.org

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