Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Invoking The Buddha To Protect The Forests

Invoking The Buddha To Protect The Forests Image
Buddhists in Cambodia are ordaining trees in order to protect the endangered forests they grow in (arcworld.org).

The young, novice monk Sar Vy says he does not need to understand the science of climate change to know that his country and its people -- as well as the wider world -- benefit from forest conservation.


[Buddhist monk] Tha Soun's orange robe shimmers as he strolls through a patch of forest in Northern Cambodia, pointing out trees and shrubs with medicinal benefits. He gestures toward berries that he says are good for joint and muscle pain, and a beehive full of nutritious wild honey.

The Buddhist/Hindu Khmer empire, like the corresponding jungle empires of Mesoamerica, was once the largest in Asia (khmerlibrarypicture).

Tha and his fellow monks from nearby Samraong pagoda have presided over this 44-thousand acre forest known as Sorng Rukavorn, or simply Monk Forest, for a decade. These days it seems a serene garden, but it wasn't always so.

Tha says that not long ago, police and soldiers would come here to poach timber.

"I would advise them to stop if I thought they might listen," Tha says. "But if they wouldn't listen, I would just take away their chainsaws and weapons."

Tha says he and the other members of his Buddhist community have succeeded in protecting the forest because they are respected spiritual figures. But his experience before he became a monk certainly helps as well.

"The soldiers don't scare me, because I used to be a soldier, too," Tha says.

This determination helps preserve the forest for use by both the monks and the local community. Now, the effort could also provide lucrative for Cambodia.

Monk Forest is one of 13 community forests totaling more than 250 square miles in Odder Meanchey province whose value in fighting climate change is being marketed in an international exchange of what are called avoided deforestation carbon credits. That's a mouthful that basically means Cambodia hopes to get paid by outsiders not to cut down their trees.

by Brendan Brady

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