The Man Who Planted Trees
Endless famin, exhausted soil, and barren deserts - The Man Who Planted Treesoffers a simple solution to all these problems.
What if intelligently-planted trees could bring back water, and therefore life, to desolate regions?
Are the old forests that once covered the Middle East gone forever? What of the endless primeval woods which grew in Europe and eastern North America before man cut them down?
French author Jean Giono wrote this classic piece of fiction in 1953 to give us a firm answer: no.
Recent inspiring fruit tree planting work in the Jordanian deserts gives us real-world proof that the enviornmental degredation we've created from cutting down so many trees can be reversed.
Yet Giono's writing preceded these efforts by decades, the product of the author's personal obserations in the role trees play in ecosystems.
The Story (Spoiler Warning)
A quick but enrapturing read at just 4,000 words, the short story tells the tale of Elzéard Bouffier, a widowed farmer who lost his family to disease and then retreated to an isolated valley in the foothills of the Alps to become a Shepard.
When the narrator discovers Bouffier in 1910, the 55-year-old is on a quest to singlehandedly restore the ruined ecosystem of his valley by cultivating a forest, tree by tree.
He plods along with his curling pole, making holes and filling them with acorns he's gathered from miles away. The valley once thrived, the shepard tells the narrator; It was full of people and life, and water once filled the empty wells.
Bouffier believes the subsequent loss of trees ended all that, and considering that he has nothing especially pressing left to do, he's set about methodically and stubbornly correcting the problem. Every day he puts 100 acorns in the ground, hoping that a few will sprout into trees.
Over the years Bouffier continues his work, and when the narrator stumbles upon him again after fighting in World War I, he's amazed to find the man still toiling away, planting tree after tree. Stretching back across his path lies a forest of shoulder-high oaks, and water is once again running through the land.
Years pass and the man plants unmolested in his remote valley as World War II rages. The narrator finds that with the return of water and trees, farms are popping up again, and villages are replacing the empty ruins. A sweet smell fills the air, birds have returned, and a laden lime tree sits in the village square.
In 1947 Bouffier dies a contented old man, his adopted valley once more vibrant.
The Truth Behind The Man Who Planted Trees
Giono admited that his most popular story was a piece of fiction, but one that had a point.
Today we might scoff, calling The Man Who Planted Trees an idyllic children's tale.
Surely trees don't bring water. Surely man can't green a arid wasteland by planting things. Don't trees use water?
In short, it's not nearly that simple.
Practitioners of permaculture are increasingly finding that the fertility of the land is directly tied to what grows and how we grow it.
Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, whose Greenbelt Movement is responsible for planting over 30 million trees trees in Kenya and for restoring its battered ecosystem, praises the book as one of her inspirations.
Even a salty desert can be turned into an oasis which puts water back into the soil and produces abundant food, as permaculture practioners have shown us.
A Raw Food Diet And The Man Who Planted Trees
Endless fields of grains will not stop soil erosion or the pollution and waste of ground water. Trees, however, can save save the environment and feed us our natural diet.
Man was meant for a healthy raw food diet, and following one can heal us of disease and bring us amazing levels of energy.
Fruit is the most productive and environmentally friendly source of food on the planet, and it behooves us to base our diet around it.
The Importance of a Good Tale
Fiction or not, Giono's simple tale is incredibly endearing. I read it in elementary school and the story has claimed spot in my subconcious. It's simple but powerful.
Get The Man Who Planted Trees today.
Find more book reviews here, and then go out and plant some trees.
Myself? I'm partial to persimmon trees.
Receive the free Raw Food Health Journal
Keep up to date with new articles from this site.