One of my favourite books is The Man Who Planted Trees, which is a delightful parable about how we all have power to affect change.
Written in 1953 by French author Jean Giono , and beautifully illustrated with the wood engravings by Harry Brockway, the book begins before World War 1 in the denuded French country side. Here we meet a shepherd who is planting trees. I don’t want to spoil the story only to say that Giono concludes with optimism.
“When I reflect on the fact that one man, with only his own simple physical and moral resources was able to bring forth out of the desert this land of Canaan, I can’t help feeling the human condition in general is admirable in spite of everything. And when I count up all the constancy, magnanimity, perseverance and generosity it took to achieve those results I’m filled with enormous respect for old uneducated peasant who was able unaided to carry through to a successful conclusion, an achievement worthy of God.”
Giono hoped the book would inspire a global reafforestation program. Apparently he made no money from the book and distributed it free.
“To see a human being reveal really exceptional qualities one must be able to observe his activities over many years. If these activities are completely unselfish; if the idea motivating them is unique in its magnanimity; if it is quite certain they have never looked for any reward; and if in addition they have left visible traces on the world – then one may say, without fear of error, that one is in the presence of an unforgettable character”
While this was not a true story (although many people thought it was), there are a number of other people who have done something similar. For real life inspiration read this story about an Indian man, Jadav Payeng, who planted a 1360 acre forest over a period of 30 years.