One of the most moving elements of the eco-village in Cloughjordan and one which has provoked the greatest emotion in me from my visit so far is the new forest that was planted here in 2011. More than 17,000 native Irish species that include oak, ash, alder, sweet chestnut, birch, rowan and wild cherry were planted, and it is now developing into the most magical haven for wildlife.
What struck me about the planting of the forest is the love that it expressed for our future generations. Around the time that I first saw the forest in Cloughjordan I heard a story based in New College, Oxford in the UK, founded in 1379. In the college’s great dining hall they had a tall ceiling that was supported by great oak beams 46cm (18 inches) square and 13.5 metres (45 feet) long. The beams were discovered to be badly infested with beetles and so, needed to be replaced. As the beams were so huge the college had no idea where they would find timber to replace them. Someone suggested searching in college lands run by the college Forester. So they called the college Forester and asked him if there were any suitable oaks available and they received the response “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.
“ it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for over five hundred years saying “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”
I was struck by the fact that this idea of replacing and managing timber and other resources for the future, was something that was routinely considered. Many hundreds of years ago the builders of buildings were making sure there were replacements materials for them for many generations to come.
The act of planting a forest especially a deciduous forest that takes a few hundred years to mature is something that is rare in our times: there are few people planting forests that they will never see, forests that are for their descendants. The indigenous tribes of the US talk about planning for the next seven generations: they taught that in every decision, personal, governmental or corporate, it must be considered how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future.
We have lost this way of thinking – we have savaged natural resources over our last seven generations but we are being called now to do what no generation in history has done before – we are being called to invest in our descendants even thought we have not received, in kind, from our ancestors. No provision was made for us but we are being called to ‘give’ in ways that we have not remembered from our ancestors, to ensure that future generations will survive. This is the simple truth and a key I feel to creating better ways of living for ourselves and for all our future generations; learning to really expand our awareness of the systems within which we live to include the arc of time between our ancestors and our descendants. Building something as a gift for your great great great great grandchildren is a very different thing to building something that you can hopefully flog in order to get yourself up the property ladder to the next indebted rung.
I don’t know what these buildings might look like, perhaps they are built on land that is nurtured to grow all the materials that will be needed to rebuild buildings over and over again from sustainable stock, or perhaps they are 3D printed from plastic components that are easily disassembled and reassembled into different forms in the future….whatever they look like I can feel the heart and sense of hope that this intention ignites in me and I feel that the forest in Cloughjordan is a real symbol of hope for our future generations.
**Douthwaite, Richard (1992) The Growth illusion, Lilliput.