Years ago, I read Jean Giono’s classic book, The Man Who Planted Trees. It’s an allegorical tale about a shepard’s single-handed efforts to re-forest a desolate valley in Provence, France. Giono’s goal was to make planting trees more likable. In my case, the author successed–planting trees is now among my preferred hobbies.

What I find even more inspiring than Giono’s fictional tale are the efforts of real people. It has been said that “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now” and the following four individuals all started planting trees decades ago. They epitomize what I have come to call “The RE Generation”–an ageless cohort of people lovingly laboring on behalf of creating a truly regenerative world.

I start with Wangari Maathai, “The Woman of Trees,” who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in starting the Green Belt Movement–an environmental organization dedicated to planting trees in Kenya. To date, the organization has planted over 51 million trees. 

Fewer people will have heard of Jadav Payeng, Willie Smits, or Hugh Wilson. Payeng is known as the “Forest Man of India” and, for over 40 years, has planted and tended trees on a large island in the river Brahmaputra in northeastern India. Willie Smits is doing similar work in Borneo and has reforested close to 5000 acres, where he is also working to protect orangutans in the process. Lastly, there is Hugh Wilson, who stars in the beautiful documentary entitled “Fools and Dreamers,” and has replenished 15000 hectares of land (37,000 acres) in New Zealand.

There are countless other individuals, organizations, and even companies doing similar work and they all deserve praise, but my purpose in writing this short post is to encourage YOU to do the same.

Don’t wait! Go plant a tree. Start today and if you have the time, means, and energy please keep going–and don’t stop!

We all read the same stories about the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and the wildfires threatening the giant sequoias.  The appropriate response to these tragic reports isn’t despair, it’s action! Plant a tree and become a member of “The RE Generation” today. 

Jack Uldrich is the co-author of “The RE Generation: Sowing the Seeds for a Future of Reimagination, Reconnection, and Regeneration.” Fast Company 2022