Mt Abu – the forest finds friends

St Mary’s High School, Mt Abu, in Rajasthan, is one of the most beautiful sites for a school in the world, between a deep lake and forested hills (also a Wildlife Sanctuary). Yet, daily, the forest is being pillaged by local villagers, who are chopping it down and selling the firewood in the town below. To whom? The shops and restaurants who cater for the tourists who come to enjoy the forests!

This sad and silly cycle is as old as human beings first impacting on their environment, but dwindling forests today make it a vicious spiral into poverty and ecological devastation. Fortunately, staff and students at St Mary’s can see the folly of this, and have the heart to protect the forest and its wildlife. Slowly, they are working with villagers and the buyers of firewood (whose money drives the crazy cycle) so that they can see this trade is (so far) unsustainable.

After awareness, comes reconciliation – villagers can plant and care for trees, to restore the forest. Can the money for this come from the price they charge for firewood? The economist says it should: the price should include the full cost of chopping down trees (namely, growing replacement trees). But, until then, does someone want to pay for carbon offsets to their fossil fuel consumption?

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