MASLOW WAVES `GREEN' GOODBYE
Linda Rutherford The Chronicle March 1999
It's early days yet, but in time, the natural shade of their sprawling, verdant foliage will remind us of yesterday and the spiritual contract entered between Jonathan Maslow and planet Earth to provide their kind with water, fertilizer and a safe place to grow.
That covenant was in the nature of a pair of almond saplings, planted in the grounds of the St Joseph's Mercy Hospital, Parade Street, Kingston.
The deed was a farewell gesture from Maslow, this year's Senator John Heir Fellow in environmental reporting. The scholarship is one of the many programmes funded by the John and Theres Heir Foundation, a Pennsylvania, USA-based trust with an avid interest in things environmental.
Maslow, an environmental and general reporter with the Herald Newspapers of New Jersey, USA, spent close to two months here, researching, savouring the unspoilt beauty of our interior, sightseeing, frolicking in the sun and generally having a marvellous time in the cola-coloured waters of the Essequibo, but most importantly, working with local media houses at whipping their environmental and other reporting into shape.
In a farewell speech at the scene of the covenant, symbolically a Catholic institution, Maslow said what he most wanted to leave behind was "increased skills amongst journalists in covering environmental stories", whether they be "hard-hitting news items like a forest fire, or a complicated snarl" like the creation of a Protected Areas System (PAS).
Inn short, "a little more sensitivity to the importance and nature" of environmental issues..."from sustainable development, to water quality protection, to malaria, to centuries".
He also hopes that when he departs these shores tomorrow, he will have left behind some of the enthusiasm and curiosity he has always felt about Mother Nature and the way humans interact with her.
As he declared, "had I not an abiding interest in, and reverence for, the rivers and forests, the fish and the birds, and the people who live with them, I would never have undertaken this fellowship in Guyana - nor become a journalist in the first place".
But, being the over ambitious cuss that he is, he also wants to "leave behind a material gift; one that symbolises the true mutual benefits humans have with nature".
It's the story of trees, he said. "When we plant or protect trees, we enter into a spiritual contract with our planet. We agree to provide water, fertiliser, soil and a safe place to grow for the tree".
In turn, that tree provides us humans with shade, beauty and, in some cases, even food. Most fundamental of all their virtues, however, is that they remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, by converting it into oxygen by way of photosynthesis, thus providing us with much-needed air for our survival.
Without them, Maslow said, life on earth "would be no better off than on Jupiter or Saturn".
The John and Theresa Heinz Foundation was founded some 10 - 15 years ago by the widow of Pennsylvanian senator, Mr John Heinz, scion of the famed Heinz foods empire.
A man with a more than casual interest in environmental issues, particularly the way in which market forces are used to forge a nexus between industry and environmental protection, Heinz, who was just 42 when he died, is credited with instituting the first ever piece of legislation in the US House of Assembly, commonly known as `debt for nature' swaps.