Sunday 30 March 2014

The Man who Planted Trees

I've planted hundreds of trees, for myself and for friends-and-relations.  Actually, of course, I haven't planted them for me but rather for my grandchildren - and yours.  This has usually been not much fun because, being disorganised slack-bobs we always seem to have 1000 trees to plant right at the end of the season.  But even if we get the timing right, the tree-nursery will inevitably deliver all the trees together and there is a certain amount of sell-by date pressure to get the roots back in the dark-and-wet.  Some of my tree-planting pals put a lot of work into each treelet, cutting sods and turning them root-side up to suppress the immediately surrounding weeds.  Me, I tend just to lash into the task: cutting a slot with a long-handled spade, less complex than a slane, or a loy, but without a T-shaped cross-piece. Cut stuff stomp, cut stuff stomp . . . Sure some of them don't take, but you can get a lot in when you get the rhythm.  I've often thought that one man and a boy could fairly zing through the work because the heavy lifting alternates with fiddling about in a bag of baby trees and the latter task could be allocated to the 'prentice.

But I didn't want to talk to about me today, because it's Jean Giono's birthday.  Huzzah!  Giono is more or less completely unknown outside of France and even there he's a bit passé.  He was almost exactly the same age as Marcel Pagnol who is a little more famous in Anglophonistan because of the films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, which were box-office successes with subtitles.  And lovely films as well.  Pagnol made three of Giono's stories into films in the 1930s.  But in the tree-hugger world, Giono is huge star for writing L'homme qui plantait des arbres, a sliver of a book that speaks loud about the power to change the world.

Giono insisted that the story should be freely available to anyone who wants to read it, so you can catch it on several sites. You can read it in half an hour.  Arvind Gupta has put it into a beautifully produced PDF.  You may choose to read it to your children tonight in bed.  It is also here in plain txt with a bit of explanatory back-story.  It's much better to read it to small children but if you want it read for you by Christopher "von Trapp" Plummer with weird Québécois graphics and poor sound quality, it's on vimeo.  The idea of the story is that small-small actions - planting 100 acorns - endlessly repeated, can change the landscape; in particular they can change the hydro-geology of a region and turn an upland desert into something closer to heaven.

Here's another shorter story about how tilting an ecosystem in one small way can have a quite unexpected outcome on water through a cascade of reactions to the initial intervention.

1 comment:

  1. Having recieved same from a dear friend and having reread it only recently I can heartilly recommend the story. The video of Yellowstone is also a beauty. Thanks to blob and co