A Modern Johnny Appleseed Saves His Homeland
Johnny Appleseed. Source: http://www.masslive.com/history/index.ssf/2011/05/the_legend_of_johnny_appleseed.html

A Modern Johnny Appleseed Saves His Homeland

Everybody knows planting trees is a good thing. They provide the oxygen we breathe, shelter, shade on hot days, wood for fires on camping trips, material for paper, and on and on. Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has singlehandedly planted more trees, bamboo, and other assorted plant life than could fit in New York City’s Central Park. It’s an achievement that’s impressive in and of itself, but is made even more so by the astonishing things his forest has done.

First, Payeng’s trees provided a home for various forms of wildlife, many endangered. His Molai Forest rests on Majuli Island, a giant sandbar in the middle of India’s Brahmaputra River that’s home to many animals and one hundred and fifty thousand people. For the last one hundred years, Majuli Isand has faced a serious soil erosion problem, so serious that its landmass was cut almost in half.

That’s where Payeng and his forest came in. Because the second benefit the trees provided was to stabilize the ground they were planted in and end Majuli’s erosion problem.

So let’s take that idea and make it bigger. That’s the general attitude of over eleven African countries banding together to make a similar project a reality. It’s called the Great Green Wall, and to say it is ambitious is something of an understatement.

The plan is to do as Payeng did, plant trees. A whole bunch of them. Specifically, the plan is to plant a band of drought resistant trees in a strip nine miles wide and four thousand and seven hundred and fifty miles long. So long it stretches across the entire continent. Like I said, ambitious.

But it’s necessarily so. The sands of the Sahara are not stationary. They do not stay in a tidy lump on the northern part of the African continent, and that’s the problem. The UN claims that these highly mobile sands have the potential to consume more than half of the land currently used to grow Africa’s food by 2025. So the question became, how do you trap sand? If the sands of Payeng’s island home were stabilized and protected from rapid erosion by the planting of trees, so should the sands of the Sahara.

Not only is this massive undertaking an opportunity to better our environment but, like the Molai Forest, it provides other advantages as well. For example, badly needed jobs. The only way those trees are going to do their job is if lots and lots of people are hired to plant them. The project also has fantastic potential to promote international collaboration and foster cooperation between neighboring countries.

So isn’t it time for you to plant a tree? Many tree-planting initiatives, such as Million Trees NYC and the Nature Conservancy, are ready to help you. And, if you’re not inclined to physical exertion, most of those organizations accept the other kind of green contribution too.

Posted by Alex Jensen

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