The man who planted a forest
Jadav Payeng single-handedly planted a vast forest in the middle of a barren wasteland. The forest is almost twice the size of Central Park in New York.
Jadav lives on Majuli Island, one of the largest river islands in the world. Majuli is rapidly decreasing in size, due to soil erosion. In 1979, Jadav, then still a teen, also found a larger number of dead snakes that died from excessive heat, without shade provided by trees. To solve both problems, Jadav started planting at least one tree a day. He has continued to plant trees daily every single day for over 30 years. And he tended tirelessly to the trees with his own effort, a challenging task given the harsh climate. Today the forest is home to tigers, rhinos, deer, and even a tribe of elephants.
His work went unnoticed for almost 30 years. It was only in 2008 when a photographer stumbled upon the forest and wrote an article about his, that Jadav's work came to public eye. Jadav went on to win many awards and was even conferred the title of "Forest Man" by the then Indian Prime Minister.
But Jadav remains frustrated. He has many ideas for his forest and for Majuli but has not been able to get governmental support. And he continues to tend to his forest while fighting off poachers:
"The biggest threat is man. They would have destroyed the forest for economic gain, and the animals would be vulnerable again. There are no monsters in nature except for humans. Humans consume everything until there is nothing left. Nothing is safe from humans, not even elephants and tigers. I will continue to plant to my last breath. I worry about the fate of the world, just like everyone else. I see bad things happen on my island, and I do what I can to help. I am just a simple man, there are many just like me. I tell people cutting down these trees will get you nothing. Cut me before you cut the trees."
Jadav's example is incredible. By being relentlessly consistent, and just doing something every day without fail, he has achieved something remarkable. I can think of governments that have entire departments dedicated to do what Jadav has done, with many times the resources. But as much this has been his passion, it has also brought Jadav equal parts frustration. Together with others featured here like Marc Ching and Diana Nyad, it does show that even when we're doing what we really want to do, it might not always be enjoyable. The adage that - find your passion and you never need to work another day - is just not true. There is a constant struggle, or as Ray Dalio puts it, constant suffering. But mostly, even with the struggle, I would imagine that Jadav would not want to do anything else.