"We are now nurturing the plants as if we are nurturing the little prince.”
Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Queen Jetsun Pema sit with their new baby and his grandfather, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). Image courtesy of People.
Last week, the Internet went collectively nutty over a photo of a tiny, night-robe-wearing Prince George, who was allowed to extend his bedtime in order to properly say goodbye to President Obama. Our fascination with baby royalty has been around for eons—primarily in the form of ahh-ing and ogling. Rarely, though, does social good spring forth from this gawking.*
But a newborn prince in Bhutan might just change all that.
In order to celebrate the birth of Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, residents of his country planted 108,000 new saplings throughout the land; baby trees for a baby king-in-the-making.
Each household in Bhutan (all 82,000) planted a tree in homage, with a group of dedicated arborists adding on an additional 26,000 to hit the important figure of 108, which—in Buddhism—is the number of earthly desires blocking the path to enlightenment. Each tree planted removes one of the defilements along the path, as a kind of spiritual cleanse. It’s similar to each of the 108 bells that toll on New Year’s Eve in Japan, and why Buddhist monks make a point of bowing 108 times.
"We are now nurturing the plants as if we are nurturing the little prince,” a volunteer told the BBC, reflecting the Himalayan nation’s overwhelming commitment to both a sense of community and the environment.
Bhutan’s focus on the bigger, eco-friendly picture is largely connected to its Buddhist roots. More than 75 percent of the population practices the religion in which trees are honored and revered, and by law the country must be at least 60-percent covered by forests. “In Buddhism, a tree is the provider and nourisher of all life forms. It symbolizes longevity, health, beauty, and even compassion,” Tenzin Lekphell, the planting organizer, explained.
The carbon-negative country may be small, but it is a mighty large example of how to use “celebrity” happenings for the betterment of everyone. Maybe for Prince George’s next birthday, Queen Elizabeth can deem a mandatory day of volunteering for all British citizens. While we’re at it, let’s add in everyone around the world who has ever picked up a tabloid with a member of the British royal family on the front. Photos of adorable babies in their nightdresses shouldn’t come for free, after all.
*Yes yes, we know that Prince George currently goes to a lot of charity polo matches. (It doesn’t count.)