Wednesday, September 16, 2009

L'homme qui plantait des arbres

I work in the environmental movement. It's emotionally demanding to see how people have spent their lives fighting for a better world and you, as a young person, embarking on a similar path. There are countless forces which seek not only to exploit the world and its resources, but its people. Call it socioecological. Call it a desire for sustainable development. Whatever it is, it's hard.

While doing some research, I came across this beautiful short film produced by my fellow countryman Frédéric Back called "L'homme qui plantait des arbres" (The Man Who Planted Trees). It's a true story about a man who lived in solitude in a desolate area and made a change in the world by planting seeds. One at a time. Persistently for years and years till he had made a forest. The streams flowed again. People returned to abandoned villages to live happy lives in the now beautiful country.

The beauty of this movie - besides the fluidity of its animation which is stunning - is that it shows how one person can have an impact on the world by making small, persistent, local efforts. Out of 100,000 seeds the man planted, only 10,000 survived. But those which did grow, restored the nature which had been dessimated. In a link which environmentalists too often ignore, the revitalisation of nature also brought about positive social change in the way people felt in that space. It also brought back prosperity. The environment is inextricably linked to society and both are linked to the economy. One cannot go without the other. They are all part of a whole.

I ask myself "What am I going to do to make a better world?" It's not about me. It's about something beyond myself which I don't fully understand. This life that exists, seemingly without purpose, that is so precious.

Maybe I'll plant a forest someday.

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