For a long time, we have failed to acknowledge that plants provide us with not only wellbeing and aesthetic pleasures but also spiritual serenity. These are valuable blessings we cannot underestimate yet we did. We find ourselves entranced by nature, in our gardens or in our valleys and mountains, picnicking, hiking, fishing, or the like; all while disregarding to grant Nature its unerring glory and due respect. But things are changing now!
Lebanon is indeed changing in that regard as we are becoming more consciously aware of our environment, and of the necessity to protect it and to nurture its natural blessings …. and develop them.
As the wise Buddha once said, paving the way to an insightful path in our relationship with nature, “When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.”
We might not like all that there is of our country but we do love it and this blessed land of ours with its rich nature. Plucking that richness is a harsh misuse that harms us likewise. Watering it, as in nurturing it, is love; a love we owe in gratitude to mother nature for the blessings she bestowed unto us.
With Lebanon on its pursuit of development, not only have we begun to acknowledge the fundamental value of nature, but we have also begun to act upon it. Lebanon has been known for its marvelous natural reserves, which are astonishing. Nonetheless, the desire for botanic gardens has begun to manifest.
In 2012, there was exactly no single botanic garden in Lebanon compared to today, although they remain rare. However, what we have achieved so far in that regard, these baby-steps of ours, is a source of pride and hope.
As of recently, Eastwood College-Kfarshimam initiated a botanical garden, in collaboration with Green Hand Organization, an NGO which aims towards environmental and human sustainable development, with over 60 different kinds of trees and plants native to Lebanon!
The garden, though manifests the beauty and role of botanical gardens, is more specialized and has more specific objectives such as the restoration of native species, some of which are endangered, and the provision of the knowledge and platform to learn about.
It is not just a botanical garden, it involves an Alternative Diverse Education for Native Species (ADENS) program kind of garden. With that, it becomes the first school in Lebanon to possess its own. And it’s heartwarming to see the work done by these young students.
An endeavor worth honoring, the Minister of Environment himself, Mr. Fadi Jreissati, attended the opening ceremony, along with the representative of the Minister of Education, the director of his office, Mr. Hisham Yahya.
This initiative by Eastwood College marks another significant step forward in the evolving path of our society towards a healthier relationship with our nature.
In the words of the College, “Our students will benefit from this pioneering project promoting beauty and knowledge and helping people realize how important it is to keep our Lebanon green and clean.”
As per Jinan Karameh Shayya, the head of Educational Commission in Green Hand Organization: “There’s no precedent for such a project in Lebanon – even on the AUB campus – except for the Mobile Botanical Garden designed and implemented by the Green Hand Organisation, and it took a big success among schools and environmental groups!”
It is important to say that, with the passing of time, Lebanon, like many other countries, has unintentionally drifted away from our sacred connection to our earth and nature, scarring our lands with our modernized inventions.
Many countries, however, have come to realize the harm done to their natural environment in the name of modernization, hence the decision to put their modern equipment to wise use, which has favored, among other matters, the flourishing of botany.
At that, about 2000 botanic gardens came to life worldwide to date; not enough, all considered, but they are at a rapidly rising trend.
We, in Lebanon, are working on that angle as well; at least some of us are. Since our first botanic garden in 2016 within the AUB campus, a total of 12 botanic gardens and parks have been created in various areas of Lebanon.
One should know that botanic gardens are not easily done. They require a lot of dedication in collecting, often from across the globe, a vast variety of plants and displaying them within the same proximity- a museum of alluring plants, so to speak.
It involves also the careful labeling of each under its scientific name; plants ranging from exotic to tropical and the renowned to the rare and unique. Then comes the daily dedication of cultivating them. It takes time to grow them all to their full natural glory, and maintain them at that level, hence caring patience is a must.
As president Michael Aoun once stated, “Nature is a balanced living world with three interrelated dimensions: Human, animal, and plant. This is the desire of the wisdom of the Creator and so it will remain, and by maintaining these dimensions, life is preserved and its course is organized.”
Positive and constructive change is ongoing, and our urge to introduce botanic gardens into our world is part of that healthy evolution we want to willingly participate in.