Is it ever going to be cool to be a tree-hugger?
Here’s a question for you: when you think of what a ‘tree-hugger’ is do you feel negative or positive thoughts?
The notion of hugging a tree, isn’t necessarily negative from an objective view point.
However, the question might require a more in-depth sociologically minded answer, rather than a simplistic treatise on the connotations of the words that make up the phrase. The reason why most people will have negative associations with the word ‘tree-hugger‘ is because of the alienating notion of loving an inanimate being.
Why would you love the tree? The tree might well be a living creature, but the fact remains that the tree will remain oblivious of your love for it. You can spend an eternity hugging the tree, but it will not show you an ounce of emotion in response to it – in other words, it won’t hug you back.
The first recorded tree-huggers did not originate in the hippy movement of 1970s America, as it is so often thought to have, but instead finds it’s roots in the Northern territories of India and the devoted actions of hundreds of Hindu people from the Bishnois sect in 1730.
The Bishnois are a sect of Hindu people, still active to this day, who follow a strict set of 29 tenets.
Although 10 of these tenets are concerned with personal hygiene and health, eight are also reserved for the sake of the planet. These eight tenets aim to preserve bio-diversity and encourage healthy animal husbandry – one of which specifically bans the killing of any animals and the felling of any green trees.
Although the Hinduism was by no means a new religion in the year 1730, the idea that certain trees were simply not to be cut down, at a time when timber was one of the most sought after building resource in the country, was not greeted with enthusiasm by those not in the sect, especially the King at the time who demanded a huge amount of wood to build a new palace.
Amrita Devi Bishnoi, a devoted Bishnoi, rallied her fellow devotees and stood against the King and his men. A total number of 363 Bishnoi joined together to protect the Khejri trees of their local area. When the King’s party came across the Bishnoi group they demanded a bribe in return for the saving of the trees. Amrita refused and stated that they would rather die than see the trees harmed.
In the scuffle that ensued some 269 Bishnoi lost their lives in a sacrifice that would later be known as the Khejarli Massacre.
Although many Bishnoi lost their lives that day, their heroic actions of standing up to physical intimidation and violence for the sake of their beliefs, have been remembered.
Each year, Bishnois assemble in the village of Khejarli to pay tribute to their fallen predecessors and the action of clinging to or ‘hugging’ trees was legitimised as a method of protest against a destructive and greedy human force.