It was almost the end of October but high temperatures heated up across Southern California. It made me think about global warming.
Last month young people across this country organized strikes and marches in many cities, suggesting that adults have not done a great job looking after the planet and that needed to be changed. The series of inspiring events gave me—and many others—a speck of hope for the future. A great number of my mom friends enthusiastically took their teenagers and even younger children to participate.
Days before the strike in our city I asked my first grader if he was interested in being part of the movement. I told him that I would be happy to sign him a permission slip that was required by our school district. He said no, adding that the strike was “silly.”
I was surprised. Yes, he was only six years old but he knew exactly what the strike was all about. He also cared about climate change; he liked polar bears a lot and understood what the rising of global temperatures would affect his polar bear friends.
Yet he said no to climate strike. I wondered why.
“I don’t think the kids in our school really know what we need to do to stop global warming!” He said. “They don’t sort their plastics in school. They throw the crust away when eating pizza. They ask their parents to keep engine running and air conditioner on when waiting for them outside of school at pick-up time. And they are doing a climate walkout! What’s the point? That’s just silly!”
As he talked, he got faster and faster, louder and louder. He told me that many of his friends complained when our city banned plastic straw earlier this year. “When the grown ups say, ‘okay, now let’s not use straws,’ they are not happy. But now they are going to have a walkout to ask grown ups to fix climate problem! That’s just super silly!”
My heart sank. I thought my son was trying to say “hypocritical” when he said “silly,” but he hasn’t learned the word “hypocritical” yet. It did sound very hypocritical to me, but I believed what he described would only apply to a small number of the children.
Recently, however, I witnessed something that made me come to a realization.
At a local mom group I belong to, a member proposed that instead of using bottle water and paper plates, we should all bring our own drink and reusable table ware to future meetings. I seconded the proposal and expected it to be approved by the group without much opposition. But I expected wrong. The group voted no. Most members still preferred the convenience of bottle water, plastic utensil and paper plates.
Now I was feeling the irony that my son was feeling. Half of the members in the group took their children to the climate march, yet most of them would choose convenience over sustainability in everyday life.
There are adults who didn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to march and asked those who are more powerful—for us it’s global leaders—to fix the problems for us. There are children who wouldn’t make climate-conscious choice in daily life but wanted to have a climate strike and asked those who are more powerful—for them it’s adults—to fix the problems for them.
So we saw the irony lingering from global climate strike: In Boston, cardboard and paper “climate change” sign were found everywhere in trash cans on Boston Common. In Toronto, an idling truck promoting climate strike angered people.
Greta Thunberg inspired the world not because she organized the global strike, but because she lives according to her conviction. She is a vegan. She traveled by sailboat instead of flying. As for most of us, we travel and eat without thinking much about our carbon footprint and the actual consequences of our daily life in spite of the believe that climate change is an urgent threat.
Thinking of that, I was ashamed. My son was right. Awareness should be both knowing and doing. In addition to a strike, there were much more basic things that we could, and should be doing. Still, I think the climate strike was a good thing – better to have the right value, which might one day change what we chose to eat and eat with. We have to stay climate conscious after the strike.
Oh, and what we did on the day of our city’s climate strike? I walked my son to school instead of driving him. He made a “Save a polar bear! Do not keep your engine running when picking up/dropping off your children” poster, and posted in front of his little brother’s day care. No, we did not participate in the climate strike, but we tried to do our part.
Next time you present a bouquet to your loved one or while welcoming a guest, thank the people of few villages in Krishnagiri district in south Tamil Nadu in India. Millions of these petite and fresh flowers spread fragrance in UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore and Middle East. They bloom in plenty in Krishnagiri district in towns like Thally, Kelamangalam, Denkanikottai, Shoolagiri and Hosur. Though these places are just an obscure speck on the map of India they are some of the important floriculture address of the country. How do these colorful flowers bloom here? Does the hot and humid climatic condition of the country suit them? The response is a little dicey. The way the flowers are grown in the gardens, situated at an altitude of 1000 feet above mean sea level is the answer to the questions.
Untouched by pollution and tourists these rose gardens are tucked away in small villages spread all over the Western Ghats on the border of the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
All along the well-laid roads that meander on these not too tall hills dot rose gardens where men, women and children, with a covering on their head, tend to rose saplings. A few feet away, in what seems like a plastic house and net structures, stand long rows of flowering plants. Inquiries reveal that these ubiquitous plastic shields are polyhouses.
Though they look like simple gardens, they are large farms where the flowers were grown using modern technology. The polyhouse is a structure made of translucent material like glass or polyethylene which help the plants grow and develop under controlled climatic conditions.
Narrow paths from these polyhouses lead you to hi-tech floriculture companies. It is here these flowers are plucked at the right time, cut to size with the right machines and preserved in huge cold storage rooms before being packed off to the local market and local airport, to be flown abroad.
Those who manage them are not local farmers but engineers, IT and management professionals.
Bright roses, rich marigolds and huge carnations is the capital that drives them to invest more and more in this industry. One such businessmen who turns over crores annually is Jitendra Kumar Bajoria, who hails from Bagalpur in Bihar State.
Attracted by the nip in the air and the lush green landscape, this entrepreneur developed a rose garden on an acre two decades ago. Enthused by the results he decided to go commercial and took a big business plunge. He set up huge flower farms on 65 acres, – Maa Floritech _ at Agalkottai in Denkanikottai taluk in Krishnagiri district in 2006.
As time flew by, the farms became hi-tech but shrunk to 45 acres. “We boosted production by modernizing the farm and using Israeli farming technology, said Kush Chokhani, manager of Maa Floritech, Agalkottai village.” Using Israeli technology, cultivation of roses and carnations grew in leaps and bounds on these farms. They did not just increase in numbers but in varieties too. “Today we have 82 varieties of chrysanthemums and 25 varieties of roses on our farms,” said Mr. Kush.
Growing the saplings
How are saplings actually grown and tended? “The specialty of Agalkottai are the following. Altitude (1000 m above mean sea level, red soil (ideal for roses), temperatures always hover around 23 – 30 degrees centigrade (good for chrysanthemums, marigold and roses),” said Mr. Kush.
The cuttings are planted in straight rows inside the polyhouses. Apart from air, water and soil the flowers need nutrients too. “We give them at the right moment when they get depleted in the soil. Thanks to Israeli technology nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur and potassium are sent through pipes embedded in the soil. Similarly whenever there is an increase or decrease in temperatures inside the polyhouses, the technology helps to control it. For instance, there are tiny fogging machines (fully automated drip and fogger system) which sprinkle water over the plants when it becomes hot,” said Mr Kush as he turned on the fogging switch.
It is a sight to watch these tiny robots swirl around and sprinkle water on the plants. For a minute, you are transported to a rainy setting. “Also when it is cold outside, the temperature is survival- friendly for the plants as the polyhouses stop the greenhouse gases from leaving,” explained Mr. Kush.
Though there are less pests and insects inside a polyhouse, Mr. Kush opines that there is a need for regular consultation regarding the right kind of fertilizers and fungicides for the plants. “We are always on the look out for a a breakout of pests such as thrips, mites and aphids. The plants are susceptible to Powdery mildew ( a disease) when there is less humidity.”
Horticulture officials in the district are of the view that these enclosures also ensure disease control, fertigation and other agronomical practices. Thus the farmers of the region are assured of harvesting flowers such as carnation, gerbera, marigold, orchid and roses throughout the year without worrying about crop loss or damage.
Micro irrigation system ensures right amount of water for the roots (cuts water use by 80 per cent). Mainly the poly houses boost starch production as the carbon-dioxide emitted by the plants at night is retained inside the enclosure.
These polyhouses offer other sophistication too like the photo-synthetically active radiation (PAR) lighting. Plants grow tall under these lighting. But when they reach a specified height, lights are switched off and flowering commences. Thus the Israeli technology helps control photosynthesis, humidity, good aeration, temperature and other conditions.
Once flowering commences, care is taken to cap each and every rose bud with a synthetic mesh to control its size. Rose stems ready for harvest during sunny days have to be pre-cooled. Soil and water need to be tested regularly. According to Mr. Kush, one cannot succeed in hi-tech farming without personal attention.
Once the flowers are in full bloom, they are harvested, precooled for 12-16 hours at 8-10 degrees in a cold room. The stems are then de-leafed using machines 25 % from the bottom. The stems are then graded for length. They are then bunched based on the length. “A bunch consists of 20 roses. They are wrapped after cutting and packed in a preservative for storing in cold rooms. They are taken out based on the orders,” explained Mr. Kush.
“We keep updating ourselves with new techniques and news about market conditions,” said Mr. Kush. There is regular knowledge-transfer to workers about upkeep of plants, weeding, transplanting, cultivation methods, irrigation, nursery development de-leafing and cutting. The workforce are not only from Tamil Nadu state but also from Northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkand and West Bengal.
While men prepare the flower beds, carry buckets of water and remove weeds, women are involved in harvesting, de-shooting and other light jobs.
Based on their skill they earn approximately $ 4 to $ 5 every day. With a growing demand for these flowers, it will definitely attract more entrepreneurs . Indian chrysanthemums, roses and marigolds are sure to find a place in many a bouquets in every part of the globe soon.
Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004.
She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world.
she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health.
To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/