"Why trees matter" is nothing more than a cliché. That’s the worst thing we could do to trees -- treat them as clichés. We didn’t grow them and did something we had no right of doing -- cut the trees that we did not even plant.
Like all clichés, why trees matter has had exactly the opposite effect in this country. Trees don’t matter to people in their real lived lives. Those who do have the means or space to grow trees would rather have a lush green grassy patch as lawn but without a tree. For trees make mess in the lawn, their shade does not let the grass grow and, wait, their roots shake the foundations of the built structure, rendering it weak.
The rest of course is all general knowledge. Everyone knows about the role of trees in providing shade, oxygen, storing of carbon, saving from pollution, climate change, soil erosion, saving energy et cetera. Our answer to these uses invariably has been to revert to clichés. Every spring and monsoon there are "plant more trees" campaigns, till someone decided to be really ambitious and sought to plant no less than a billion trees in one province alone.
But there is no mechanism of knowing what happens to these campaigns. Do we know what trees to plant but, before that, do we even know why we plant trees in the first place.
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The development model that is unquestioningly adopted by successive governments has no scope for preserving the trees we have, let alone growing more. Trees have been mercilessly cut in their millions, to make room for wider roads, housing colonies, skyscrapers, industries. We even have something called ‘timber mafia’ that has chopped down forests and denuded mountain upon mountain for sheer profits and without any checks.
There can’t be a case for trees that is compelling enough except by recalling how trees exist in our collective memory or how we as individuals remember trees, especially those from our childhood. Trees are something that we shall leave for the children to have some memories about. Do we want for them a childhood devoid of trees? This is why trees matter. So plant them and save them from being cut, so that we can weave more fairytales around them. And bring back all the birds that we have lost in the process.