Today I wanted to write a post about a very remarkable person. The other night I stumbled upon a 2013 short documentary on YouTube called Forest Man, directed by William Douglas McMaster. It briefly details a story that spans more than three decades. A story about a man single-handedly planting a forest.
In 1979, then 16 year old Jadav Molai Payeng was hired as a labourer for a tree plantation project initiated by the social forestry division of the Golaghat district in the state of Assam, India. When the five year project ended, Payeng began his own planting project on a barren sandbar next to his home island Majuli.
Now, nearly forty years later, the forest has grown to cover 1,360 acres. It’s also home to many animals, including a herd of a hundred elephants for six months of the year.
But Payeng isn’t only a tree lover. He’s also a serious environmentalist with solid ideas about how to deal with one of Majuli’s biggest problems – erosion. Situated in the Brahmaputra river, the island is subject to intensifying flooding every year due to an increase in glacial melting in the Himalayas. Over the past one hundred years, Majuli has lost 70 percent of its land mass. Farmers have lost land. Families have lost homes. An entire island of people made vulnerable by the effects of climate change.
One of Payeng’s ideas involves coconut trees, which can be planted densely on shorelines to prevent erosion and would also help boost the local coconut industry. “(Planting coconut trees) is good for protecting the soil, for boosting the economy and for fighting climate change.” However, as of yet no one has put his idea into action.
Payeng is fiercly protective of his forest. “I tell people, cutting those trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut my trees.” Determined to continue planting, Payeng recently stated he was going to begin a second forest and would continue with his work for the rest of his life.
Even though this story involves many complex world-wide issues and questions about humanity’s role in the destruction and preservation of nature, at its core I believe Payeng’s forest-building mission represents one simple fact.
A single person can make a difference. Plant one tree. Plant an entire forest. Just plant something. Then close your eyes and thank the universe, or God, or whomever you believe in for this planet. Because it’s the only one we’ve got.
What do you think of Jadav Payeng planting a forest? Inspiring? Unrealistic? Do you have other ideas or solutions for problems like erosion and other climate change related issues? Let’s get a super passionate discussion about it going in the comments section! And please subscribe so you don’t miss any future posts on sustainability as well as architecture, interior design, DIY projects, home decor, crafts, gardening and healthy eating.
Published on May 16, 2017