“The Man Who Planted Trees” is one of those inspiring stories that I have re-read dozens of time and I still get goosebumps while reading it.
It’s the fictional story of Elzeard Bouffier, a man who planted so many trees over the years that it changed the local ecosystem. Here’s the first paragraph of Giono’s tale:
FOR A HUMAN CHARACTER to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.
There’s a real life Elzeard Bouffier in India. His name is Jadav Payeng.
A little more than 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav “Molai” Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India’s Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acres of jungle that Payeng planted — single-handedly.
Source: Indian man single-handedly plants a 1,360-acre forest. Dec 1012. Followup report: Indian man who planted a 1,360-acre forest now plans to plant another. April 2013. [Hat tip: Prakash Advani.]
I was introduced to the story when PBS broadcast an animated short film in 1989 (if I recall correctly.) I raved about it to friends but back in those days, you either saw it when it was broadcast or you were out of luck. Then a friend bought a DVD copy of the animator, Frédéric Back‘s work.
Watch it on YouTube in two parts:
Also available on vimeo.