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hen talking about saving the environment, most people come with the comment of “how much difference will I make?” just showing the poor attitudes people have towards achieving something despite “the odds”. In this article, I want to present a man who has defined any kind of odds and showed the world that if you set your mind to something it will become possible.

Jadav “Molai” Payeng spent 40 years of his life planting trees, gaining the nickname of “Forest Man” in India for transforming a small desert into a forest. Until this point in time, Payeng had covered 1,400 acres with trees. There is no exact number of trees as he never kept track but we are looking at around 1.5 million trees planted in 40 years.

A difficult start

Payeng was born in 1963 near the small rural town of Jorhat/India. From a young age, he saw a small island near the coast of the Brahmaputra river suffering from erosion. In many of his interviews taken by the media in India, he described that he had spent some of his time playing in that forest and it was heartbreaking seeing its vegetation slowly die.

That is why in 1979, when Payeng was 16 years of age, he decided to plant at least one tree a day for as long as he lives, calling it giving back to mother nature. By that time the island was hit quite badly by erosion, so it was mainly covered by sand and some wild bushes.

The start to this incredible journey was difficult, not only knowing the road ahead, but it was simply difficult to find tree seeds to plant. His vision was to not only plant one type of tree, but many different types to really make the island special.

A herd of domesticated buffalo roams on a sandbar of the Brahmaputra in the 1990s (Source: Scroll)

As the years went by the problem of finding seeds was solved as the trees he had planted years ago started to give seeds. With more seeds, he was able to plant even more trees every day. The island is surrounded by a flowing river so the water supply was never a problem.

It is worth mentioning that this took most of Payeng’s time, so when he started he had to give up any sort of playtime.

I have planted every tree by myself. The start was difficult as I did not have the necessary resources and it occupied most of my time. Now the process is really easy as I get seeds from the trees I planted years ago”.

Jadav Payeng

The world discovering Payeng’s efforts

Jadav “Molai” Payeng (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There are many people out there just like Payneg who have dedicated most of their life towards an honorable cause but rarely get noticed. The media in India actually discovered Payeng by mistake when in 2008 a herd of over 100 wild elephants strayed into the forest he had created.

Payeng notified the forest department about the elephants and they thought he was crazy at first as there was no forest on the island. Upon the forest department’s inspection of the island, the community around Jorhat told them about Payeng’s efforts at which point the media from India bombarded Payeng. In this event, Payeng was also made an official forester for the forest he had created on Majuli island.

In 2012 Payeng was interviewed by the Times where he confessed that he had always asked for help but no one wanted to assist him in his efforts as they saw no gain. We are all housed from the day we are born until the day we die by mother earth so we constantly gain from the earth as everything we eat or use has been created with resources from nature.

Payeng on a stroll through the forest, 2018 (Source: Scroll)

Now the island is greener than ever whilst being inhabited by all sorts of wildlife from rabbits to tigers and even rhinos. The plantation of trees had slowed down as Payeng is becoming old and tired, however, he is trying to make his children continue what he had started once he will pass away.

Life lessons to be learned

Although he is very thankful for being able to accomplish such a huge mission, he is afraid of the future. He mentioned in an earlier interview that the forest isn’t threatened by the wildlife inhabiting it, but by people who simply don’t care about it and exploit it. Nothing is safe around people, neither nature nor wildlife.

This is because we truly do not care about mother earth as a society and it is all of us to blame apart from people like Jadav Payeng who don’t need extrinsic rewards from life in order to live a good life.

Their dedication does not ask for a reward as this dedication has reasoning behind it, just like in the case of Huang Dafa who dug for 36 years just to provide his village with a secure source of water.

It is truly this mentality of “who cares about future generations” that will bring humanity to its end. Just as most of us see global warming as not being a problem in our present, but a problem for future generations and it disgusts me when I hear the argument of “I will be dead by then so why should I care?”

What about the previous generations and our ancestors who secured a better future for us?

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Warren Buffett

This quote perfectly reflects the sort of lesson we should learn from Payeng’s life dedication. He can be seen as an ancestor by our future generations for making that “small” but crucial difference in saving the planet from the consequences of global warming.

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