Planting Spruce for “Future Library”

It was in the news that Oslo in Norway is going to grow trees for books that might be printed a hundred years from now. One thousand spruce saplings are being planted in a forest outside Oslo. Whenever an author produces a manuscript it would go into a time capsule kept in an Oslo library to be read by none. Only in 2114 “the trees and text will be finally turned into a book”. So, whatever Margaret Atwood, poetess and novelist, produces henceforth will all go into the capsule, only to be published in the next century.

Katie Paterson, a 36 year-old European artist initiated the “Future Library” project for spruce trees to be grown in Norway’s Nordmarka forest for the books to be printed in the next century. It is she who proposed that Margaret Atwood’s book would be the first to be capsuled for the Future Library. Another popular author David Mitchell has also handed over his manuscript to be published a hundred years from now. Mitchell is reported to have said "It's trees, it's books, it's a circle, it's pulp, it's organic matter turning into this stuff [paper] …and then words get printed on them. I love that”

Katie Paterson appears to be a very hopeful person. She seems to believe that a century from now forests will still be there and there will be still people who would like to hold a book printed on paper in their hands despite the upgrades in technology taking place seemingly at supersonic speed. She is also up to creating a press which would print these books and arrangements are being made to ensure that it remains fit enough to roll out the preserved manuscripts on paper. A periodical maintenance job is being arranged. This is nothing but a strong belief in human behavior and a way of life which, she hopes, will persist even a hundred years hence. According to Paterson, Future Library believes “there will be a forest, a book and a reader in 100 years. The choices of this generation will shape the centuries to come, perhaps in an unprecedented way.”

The project has environmental undertones. It seeks to protect at least 1000 spruce trees for a hundred years in an area where the trees may come under the axe sooner than later. Norway is happily placed in respect of forests which cover about 37% of its land area but more than 23% of it harvested for commercial purposes.

Paterson’s is undoubtedly an unique project and one can only hope that her claims that a century away people will be affected by the choices made by the current generation come true.

Penalising for wrong parking

The other day a Hindi daily reported that a fine of Rs. 8000/- was imposed on a car owner for improper parking in London.  It seems a wealthy commuter arrived in his BMW near Mayfair or some such place in the Hyde Park area and did not care to keep his car within the space indicated for parking. His car was outside the line drawn for the purpose by a mere six inches or so but the London Police charged him for violation of the laws and fined him Rs. 8000/-. For us in India it looks an incredibly huge amount for a minor violation but in British currency it must have been around 100 pounds. Though 100 Pounds would be chicken feed for a man running around in a BMW in London – a very expensive place – yet it is, to my mind, a reasonably big amount. One could even call it a heavy penalty.

Because of such stiff penalties for even minor offences one would seldom come across a vehicle parked casually without any regard to the laws as in any city of India. While in the developed countries there is what is called governance, and that too very effective, here we have none of that, mostly because of attitudes of our politicians who nurse their voters any which way, including by interfering with the policing work for all kinds of violations – even relating to violations of traffic rules. A local minister told as much to a representative team of the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum. He brazenly said if any of his constituents sought his help when in trouble with the Police he would certainly intervene regardless of whether the violator was right or wrong.

No wonder the streets of London or, for that matter, any European city one wouldn’t find encroachments on the roads or pavements. If one stood on a pavement in a street corner one would see all around roads and footpaths free of kiosks or push-carts. However, where permitted, pavements are used for outdoor cafetarias/restaurants and not for kiosks or hawkers. In Vienna I remember to have seen kiosks built by the local body well away from the Ringstrasse – a road where there is heavy traffic of locals as well as of tourists. We even had pizzas off these kiosks cooked by an Italian.

We in India are, however, very ‘tolerant’ – yes, very tolerant of all kinds of violations, particularly of civic laws. We have all the paraphernalia for enforcement of these laws but somehow these cannot be enforced largely because of vested interests and use of political influence, sometimes even of the lowest level. Somehow all the powers have gravitated towards the elected political executive and the real enforcers have been left twiddling their thumbs. Recent instances of attempts to remove illegal kiosks from near MP Nagar had to be given up because of pressure of MLAs and municipal councilors.

Hence one can never find the same civic discipline as one finds in the developed countries of the world. Here what is needed is change of attitudes, especially of the political class. That, however, may take an eternity.


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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