They are everywhere and nowhere - most people don’t even notice them bearing silent witness to the atrocities being committed all around and to them - most people don’t even care, but a few of us do and we urgently need to convince everyone else to follow suit.

Libya is currently imploding again and…….as for Syria, time will tell but it isn’t looking good. Iran is being pushed and prodded and cajoled into reacting to ‘enemy’ aggression, Afghanistan limps along from one ‘incident’ to the next in an ever-expanding blame game and Pakistan…….we-ll…….you tell me as every single person comprising this unfairly maligned nation has their own version of the ‘story’ to relate. There is no denying that the entire region is a tinder box right now and ‘His Master’s Voice’ (HMV), having ignited the blue touch paper, is standing well back and awaiting results. HMV is already reaping the financial benefits of war having signed a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, whilst the United Arab Emirates and Qatar take their ‘keep your mouth closed’ cash on the sly.

And who, you may well ask, are the ‘everywhere and nowhere’ silent witnesses to the shenanigans of the insane death merchants going about their nefarious business of promoting greed, mistrust and division amongst populations, who would much prefer to be left alone to live their lives in peace?

These witnesses, sentinels if you like, are far from being the ‘Dogs of War’ whose atrocities they can do absolutely nothing to prevent: They are not human, nor are they animals although, like so many other life forms, they are alive, they breathe in and out, they are ‘born’, grow and, a very small number of them now, live to a ripe old age unless, of course and is increasingly the case, they are cut down in their prime.

I run the risk of disappointing many of you, especially those who have conjured up visions of some hither to unrevealed species, when I say that I am talking about trees but yes, trees are ‘it’ in this particular instance and please bear with me as I explain why.

Trees populated our planet long before humankind came to be: Trees clean the atmosphere by inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling out oxygen, they provide food, medicines and shelter for other life forms, enrich the soil with their fallen leaves and some species fix nitrogen in the soil too. Trees act as climate control agents, prevent landslides by means of holding the earth in place with intricate and sometimes extremely expansive root systems, they act as breaks against detritus being washed into water courses and control localised microclimates to the inth degree, thus allowing and encouraging other living things to thrive under their gentle beneficence.

Even school children are aware that humans use trees as fuel, as construction material, for making furniture et al and even school children, a large percentage of them at least, understand that trees have an irreplaceable role to play in safeguarding the sustainable future of our planet as a whole but, as these very same children continue their education, emphasis moves away from the natural world towards that of the exploitative world of consumerism, greed, politics and warfare as created by man and, by the time these self-same children are ready to be launched into the society as young, contributing adults, they have all but forgotten the basic necessities of life as spelled out by nature, they have, in fact, been ‘conditioned’ to surrender to a ‘norm’ which isn’t any ‘norm’ at all. True, tree planting campaigns, many of them involving school children, take place on a fairly regular basis, but they are nothing more than resource wasting exercises that rarely, if ever, result in a noticeable increase in tree populations as the saplings are merely slammed, haphazardly, into the ground and left to take their chances without any essential follow up care. Yes,…….Trees in the wild do fight to increase and multiply without the help of man, but they are growing in their natural environment and are not expected to thrive in unsuitable locations, as are a large percentage of those planted during seasonal campaigns.

This incredibly thoughtless race away from all that balances our world, this rabid destruction of natural habitats by voracious profiteers including, it must be clearly stated, those raking in the astronomical profits that automatically accrue when wars are instigated, must be redressed before it leads to the end of life as we know it. Call me a ‘doom-monger’ if you will. However, this destructive existence, which the all-important trees can do nothing but bear witness to, will, ultimately and inescapably, wipe out everything we hold dear. It is way past time that the human race lay down the tools of senseless, unless you are making a profit from it, warfare and pick up weapons of peace in their stead…….If not for ourselves, then for our children, their children and, if we are sensible and act now, for the generations to come.

    The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.