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21 July 2019
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Our Readers Write......

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Wells for Zoe

Way back in 2005 – around the time all this Wells for Zoë madness in Malawi took over our lives – Mary read a piece from a book The Secret. What I took from it was: if you put everything into your passion, the Universe conspires in enabling you to succeed. The other day I looked up a Paulo Coelho interview with Oprah Winfrey about his book The Alchemist and just smiled.

In August last year we were in Dublin Airport heading to Malawi on our 44th visit. Our flight was called but when we went to the boarding gate it had been delayed for 20 minutes. As we sat, we spoke to an English woman from Zimbabwe who asked why we were heading for Addis and what we were doing. As we explained a Cork man heading for South Africa was walking by, and he stood, got involved and had questions as well. He showed an interest in what we were doing and our approach to development. Soon enough we boarded and didn’t speak again. When I looked at my laptop in Addis, his wife had emailed to ask about making a donation.

Earlier this year they drove as a family from Cape Town to Cork in a jeep with the Wells for Zoë logo in a prominent position and checked in to our offices and pump factory in Mzuzu on their way. In the last few days he finally bought his super bike and will cycle 12,000 km from Cairo to Capetown to support our efforts in Malawi. I suspect some type of conspiracy by the Universe!

Closer to home I picked up Mary’s sister Breege, and her nine-year-old grandson Diarmaid, at Heuston Station yesterday. As we came to the roundabout heading for the N4 he started:
“John, I see ye have a problem here… lots of cars everywhere, putting CO2 into the atmosphere… but we have another big problem with cows in Roscommon. They have methane and carbon dioxide coming out both ends.”

I was not expecting such a response from a nine-year-old and it left me a little shook. I suggested that farmers grow grass and meadows that absorb CO2 to lessen the effect… “but no one grows enough trees” he quickly added. He asked about electric cars; I said OK, if the electricity is generated by wind power. Instantly he advised me that the use of solar power is also possible and getting more efficient, and “what about Hydrogen” he added. He asked if I was planting trees and when I said yes, he wanted to know how anyone could plant 2 million and could I do it in Roscommon to which I replied: probably not. I was a little dubious about students walking out of class earlier this year, but now I am more positive about their possible contribution to a change in attitudes that might somehow save the day for our planet; that is if there are more Diarmaids around.

I told him that we work with the poorest of the world in Malawi, explaining that sowing trees will enable them to feed their families who barely avoid starvation on a regular basis. By sowing, caring for and eventually selling coppicing trees they can look to a better and more self-sufficient future without dependence on AID. He asked if these poor people realised the benefits to the climate, and when I said yes, he asked how he could help; AND HE IS JUST NINE YEARS OLD.

I thought he should speak to the Dail and Seanad. Like Felix Finkbeiner the nine-year-old German boy who spoke to the UN in 2007 and started a youth organization, Plant for the Planet, which has now planted 13.6 billion trees in over 160 countries, but started out looking to plant 1 million in each. We have just linked up with his expanded group Trillion Tree Campaign, where we have added our 2,200,000 trees from last season and will later add our planned four million trees as a target for the 2019-2020 season.

Children are not often asked to speak at the UN, but Felix shook them with a simple question on Climate change? Kids know, adults know, and we all know the challenges and the solution, so why is there so little action? He suggested 3 possible reasons: adults feel they will be dead before 2100 and don’t care; then you have the Climate Change denial types; or the age-old parable situation that if you give monkeys the choice of one banana now or six bananas later they will always chose the one now.

“For us children, it’s a question of survival,” he told global leaders. “We cannot trust that adults alone will save our future. We have to take our future in our own hands.”

So, 12 years later Felix and Plant for the Planet has now changed their focus to planting a trillion trees and Wells for Zoë have joined him and them with our tiny – but always growing – little contribution.

Remember the Cork man we met at the airport? He has now bought a new super bike from the UK, and in January next will take on a huge challenge for Wells for Zoë; that of cycling 12,000 km from Cairo to Cape Town with our jersey on his back, going through Malawi enroute.

If we think small, sponsorship for his cycle could enable our Malawian communities to plant 1.2 million trees next season or, we could be brave (or even appropriately mad) and go for 12 million over the next 4 years. And we could succeed if the Universe were to conspire again!

We can plant 100 trees for €10 or 1000 for €100, with every tree having a miniscule but positive impact on climate change.

Imagine that the million-to-one chance meeting in Dublin Airport might conspire to plant 12 million trees for the Universe.

I’m sure Diarmaid will be excited about this project and get stuck in. So, are there more bright nine-or ninety- year-olds out there who want to believe in a future for our planet?

John & Mary Coyne,
Wells for Zoë
10th July 2019