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The Man Who Single-Handedly Converted a Washed-Out Land Into a 1,360 Acre Forest (thebetterindia.com)
326 points by dhimant on May 29, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

How did "tree-hugger" become an insult?

> “The education system should be like this, every kid should be asked to plant two trees,” Payeng says.

Damn straight! That idea works in so many ways I can't believe we don't inscribe it on every school building.

I would change that to a garden. Kids should understand where their food comes from,how to grow healthy food (including animals), and how to prepare it. Either way, it's about the importance of being in touch with the growing planet. I fully believe the farm-to-table movement could do incredible things for the environmental movement.

"Tree hugger", as a pejorative, typically implies a person who appears to have lost a sense of balance in the environmental discussion. People aren't going to move back intro thatched roofed, dirt floored huts, and, when used as a pejorative, that is the inference being made. It's a case of using extremists to invalidate large groups of people. Typical human.

Planting trees and planting a garden call to disparate lessons!

Planting trees is about ecosystem conservation.

Planting and tending a garden is about understanding plant life cycle, the nitrogen cycle, /and/ where food comes from.

Unless the gardens you're thinking of planting self-sustain their nutrients, conserve (or even generate a surplus of) water, and have zero impact on surrounding ecosystems (fertilizer and pesticide runoff), they don't really teach anything about ecosystems other than how we can manipulate them for our gain (greedy or otherwise).

The problem with using a tree to try to teach these lessons is trees grow too slowly. I agree they don't teach exactly the same thing, but the end goal is to make kids aware that we need to be aware that our lives are intertwined with the health of the earth. Seeing the growth cycle at a level that kids can comprehend will do more for that than planting something that, once planted, effectively becomes little more than a piece of scenery to them.

The importance of water conservation, how we interact and effect the water cycle, air quality, and many other things can be taught more effectively using the much-faster growing vegetable garden, and, since the kids have a vested interest (they get to eat what they grow), they are more engaged in these lessons.

I'm not saying kids planting trees is a bad idea, I just don't think it would be a very useful teaching tool for internalizing the importance of conservation.

Some kinds of trees can certainly grow fast enough, especially if it's a multi-year curriculum that gets revisited regularly.

Empress trees grow 10-15 feet in a year.

A weeping willow will grow about 5.5 feet in a year.

both lessons are valuable and complementary. If I have kids I'll try to teach both.

I would suggest that planting trees is part of planting a garden. Trees are a renewable resource that if, managed well, produce so many benefits. Where I live, 100's of thousands of acres are managed over offset 30 year cycles.

The idea that those espousing animal and plant "husbandry" (to use the more archaic term) are all extremists is why I stopped calling myself an environmentalist and now prefer the term ecologist. Unfortunately, my insistence on recycling (or better yet reusing) still drives my wife and kids nuts.

In Missouri, every student (I think it is every third grade student) is given a tree and asked to plant it, free from the Conservation Department.

Having planted some trees myself as a teenager (under the supervision of my grandfather, a forest warden), I can tell you it is very rewarding to do so[1]. It is also a lot of work. The young pines we planted (bought from a tree nursery) needed protection from deer, who like to munch on them while they're small, from boars who destroy the bark by rubbing their itching hide against it, and from bark beetles who decimate entire forests if left unchecked. From humans they were protected legally.

[1] Here's a series of shots of an apple tree growing up: https://plus.google.com/photos/114301087219148980063/albums/...

Interestingly, I took part in an environmental project when I was in High School to thin out a deeply overgrown area of conifers that had been planted 20 years prior as part of a tree planting initiative to reclaim some undeveloped farm land that belonged to the county and was next to a school.

We had to cut down about 10% of the trees and haul out half of the felled trees, chosen at random, and introduce a half dozen clearings about a 1/4 acre each. The intention was to thin it out so that wildlife could move around more easily in it and become a small wildlife sanctuary. Apparently it worked as the site is now a dedicated bird sanctuary.

But I do wish we could have transplanted the trees rather than just cut them down.

Transplanting a tree that has been growing for 20 years would generally require a substantial amount of digging!

And a non-zero risk of loss after replanting.

That's another thing my grandfather taught me - taking care of a forest means cutting down some trees. Although they were never chosen at random, but carefully selected, marked for their intended destination (furniture, planks or firewood) and then hauled away for sale.

This immediately brought to mind:

"The Man Who Planted Trees" the book which was adapted into an animated film that won the Acadamy Award for Best Animated Short Film and Short Film Palme d'Or in 1987


It's a really phenomenal film. It was shown a couple of years ago at SIGGRAPH's annual animation festival with John Lasseter (of Pixar) introducing it and saying it was one of his favorite films and a real inspiration to him.

Frederic Back (the creator of the film), was present as well, though not in great health. When he was brought on stage (I think after the screening), Lasseter had tears in his eyes.

Sadly, Back died at the end of last year.

We spent the whole day in silence, walking through his forest. It was in three sections, and measured 11 kilometres long and 3 kilometres at its widest. When I reminded myself that all this was the work of the hand and soul of one man, with no mechanical help, it seemed to me that men could be as effective as God in tasks other than destruction.

Thank you very much for the Youtube link. I was unaware it was made into an animated movie. It's a great story.

thanks for the link!

Exactly. It's just missing the Nazis.

Single handedly is a bit of hyperbole. To quote the man, "my family supports me unconditionally, they help me if more trees need to be planted."

We need to stop relying on this super man concept. Community creates change through support and encouragement, no man is an island.

This is amazing. "...I knew I had to make the planet greener." Yes! I love how he saw a problem and just set out to solve it because he knew no one else would. He's a real hacker.

Hacker is a bit of an unfortunate term when talking about trees.

Most entrepreneurs claiming to "change the world" and "make a dent in the universe" with their silly little mobile apps have nothing on this guy.

To quote HBO's Silicon Valley: “Hooli is making the world a better place through minimal messaging transport layers.”

This is a great inspiration to actually get out and do something.

There's a Wikipedia page for the forest [0] and the man (Jadav Payeng) too [1].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molai_forest

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadav_Payeng

Now here's a glimpse of what's possible when it's an organized effort: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Macedonia_plants_three_mil...

3 million trees in 1 day.

Wow, his friends created houses for themselves. He created a forest for everyone...

As an aside. I just noticed that site features mostly inspiring and positive stories. The world definitely needs more news like those.

One good thing about the internet is that we can pick the kind of news that we like.

I refuse to listen to news mediums where fear and negativity are the main focus. The world is a wonderful place if we look at the right places. (Cofirmation bias anyone :)

Willie Smits gave an interesting talk about a more systematic way of restoring a rainforest on TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/willie_smits_restores_a_rainforest

I want to believe in this so much, but I have huge doubts. Can someone cite some solid evidence that this works? Is Willie Smits continuing to do this in other places? Work like this sounds to me like it's just about the most important thing in the world, and it scares me to know just one TED talk, and a couple other references about it.

I wish this was the kind of thing that Al Gore, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson drew a lot more attention to.

This guy's work is complete bullshit-- and has been debunked by reputable scientists. There is no independent scientific evidence for it. If it were legit, you'd know about it... https://www.ted.com/pages/791 http://awionline.org/content/calamity-wild-orangutans-borneo

I truly admire this man. I'm wanting to do a smaller scale similar effort on 150-ish acres of land I own. It previously was ravaged by forest fire (long before I bought it) and there are very few trees left. I've been trying to water the new saplings that are growing, but I haven't set up the infrastructure to be able to scale that yet. I really wish there was more help from local government on restoring forests. We have in the U.S. a program for setting aside land as a preserve and getting a tax break. I've tried to do that to help fund re-foresting the land, but no one seems to be able to point me to how to actually move forward with that process (you need a local conversation org to sponsor you, but the ones I talked were too big to have time for me). I feel like if we just provided more information and process then folks like me could re-forest a lot of land.

Find out what the native pioneer species are and start with those. They're typically fast growing things like bramble, birch, ... Once they get off they'll prevent soil erosion, top soil dehydration and dampen wind whilst adding organic matter to the top soil. After 5 - 10 years you can start introducing slower growing native trees.

For those who don't know, they made a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign on the story: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/59012691/forest-man-pos...

Makes me think of this story about Darwin:


This not an area so big, but it is good for those who think that only the government can preserve the environment (while, well, the government mostly destroys it).

John Wamsley is another colourful character with a very hands-on approach to conservation.



Truly inspiring. An unsung hero.

As a human attempt this is breathtaking. Bringing back tigers, etc. Phenomenal.

Something troubles me - not specifically about this attempt but such attempts in general.

I live a few miles away from the "Meadowlands" in New Jersey - a good example of land thought to be useless and in the need of 'improvement' and yet it is rich enough to support wildlife within eyesight of NYC. People have drained it and dumped unmentionable crap in it. Cars and refineries pollute it. And yet it survives and provides much of the areas o2 and has other useful functions like providing a resting place for the dead bodies from the real life 'Sopranos'. I've seen deer and woodchucks by our datacenter and coyotes have been reported poaching dogs in the area.

"Unimproved land" I think they call it - marshes, wetlands, swamps and bogs. Sometimes we rush in to improve 'wastelands' that are not wssted land. Wetlands and tidal flats are the basis for life and there are more biomes than the visible 'pretty' ones with lions and tigers and bears...

A forest burns down and it remains an ugly, smelly blight - but it becomes a different ecosystem for a geological instant ( a few human generations...) But there is a human impulse to 'fix' it. Like we fixed Australia by introducing rabbits or the US by adding starlings and English sparrows. Our improvements often become problems in their own right.

It is hard to argue with building forests, though. There is no place I personally enjoy more. The forsets of the Catskills or the Adirondacks. Or the ones I grew up near in suburban NJ. WHen I lived in Korea - looking out at Buhkansan (largest mountian in the Seoul area) in the winter - I remarked how the mountain looked like a closely cropped head or hair. My friend informed me that was a legacy of the Korean War napalm (or whatever it was called at the time) was used to clear the mountains of hiding places. The trees were so even because they had been planted in the postwar years, so the forests I enjoyed hiking in were the result of a huge communal amount of human activity.

Again - mad props to this guy and the community around them. I suspect that he rescued land that was ravaged already by human activity as well as the mentioned flood. I live a few miles away from the "Meadowlands" in New Jersey - a good example of land thought to be useless and in the need of 'improvement'

"Unimproved land" I think they call it - marshes, wetlands, swamps and bogs. Sometimes we rush in to improve 'wastelands' that are not wssted land. Wetlands and tidal flats are the basis for life and there are more biomes than the visible 'pretty' ones with lions and tigers and bears...

A forest burns down and it remains an ugly, smelly blight - but it becomes a different ecosystem for a geological instant ( a few human generations...)

Again - mad props to this guy and the community around them. I suspect that he rescued land that was ravaged already by human activity as well as the mentioned flood.

emmm, his friends have built a house. He created a timber for all ..

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