Meet the Man Who Single-Handedly Planted a Forest in India

Jadav Payeng started planting trees at the age of 16. Now he’s known as the “Forest Man of India.”

Jadav PayengSiddhartha Kumar/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

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For 40 years, a man planted a tree every day on a barren island in India’s Brahmaputra River.

First, bamboo trees. Then cotton trees.

“It’s not as if I did it alone,” Jadav Payeng says. “You plant one or two trees, and they have to seed. And once they seed, the wind knows how to plant them, the birds here know how to sow them, cows know, elephants know, even the Brahmaputra River knows. The entire ecosystem knows.”

He’s being humble. Payeng first began planting trees on the sandy island, known as Majuli, at the age of 16. As the forest grew, the island attracted reptiles, deer, wild boars, and even elephants, rhinos, and tigers. Thanks to his work, Majuli is now home to a 1,360-acre woodland called the Molai Forest.

Once considered crazy by the island’s local inhabitants, Payeng is now widely celebrated as a conservationist and known as the “Forest Man of India,” NPR reports. “As long as it survives,” he says of the forest, “I survive.”

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  • Who rules the statehouse? There’s never been a female-majority statehouse. Can it happen in Nevada this year?

    Nevada’s legislature is currently third in the nation for gender parity, behind Arizona and Vermont, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. A little over 38 percent of Nevada’s lawmakers are women, while about 62 percent are men.

    But that was before a nationwide flood of first-time women candidates this year, such as Democrat Julie Pazina, who is running against a Republican incumbent in a competitive district.

    Pazina said her disappointment with Trump’s victory in the 2016 election prompted her to run. “It was when I decided,” she said, “I needed to be the change I wanted to see.” (Mother Jones)

  • Keeping an eye out. Some school districts are training all personnel to notice when a student is anguished or acting out of character.

    In one Texas district, a bus driver texted the district when he saw a student lash out. A counselor met the student and found out that he was taking a breakup hard, and his mother said he had threatened to harm himself. The student went to a local mental health facility for treatment.

    Before this new program, transportation staff wouldn’t have had a protocol to help. The idea: Students have a better chance to flourish if the entire community understands and responds to a student’s problems, including their traumas.

    In one Massachusetts district, local police, fire departments and family service agencies notify schools if a child has been exposed to an traumatic event the night before—which in turn helps schools identify whether the child might need help. Suspensions and juvenile delinquency have declined dramatically as a result.

    Other school districts are considering similar programs, says John Hernandez, director of student services at Texas’ East Central Independent School District, which includes parts of San Antonio and China Grove.

    “Could every school in the country duplicate this, you know?” Hernandez said. “That would be my ultimate vision.” (San Antonio Express-News)

  • A message against hate. Lisa Licata and Sherry Lau just wanted to live their lives in peace. But their neighbor couldn’t stop with the hateful homophobic slurs.

    So Licata and Lau painted their wooden fence the colors of the rainbow. When things didn’t improve, the two went one step further: They painted rainbow colors on the side of their home in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, facing the troublesome neighbor.

    “When he protested against the fence being rainbow, that’s when we decided, let’s do the house,” Licata told WTAE Pittsburgh.

    And it sounds like the neighborhood’s reception to the redecoration has been warm. “We live here,” Lau told WTAE. “We’re not moving. My family accepts us. Our friends accept us. If you don’t like it, just live your life, leave us alone and everything’s cool.” (Mashable)

  • The power of swimming. They lost their legs while battling ISIS. Now, with artificial legs, a group of Iraqis has begun swimming, even racing, as part of their rehabilitation from war.

    “I’ve swum since I was a child and today I can start again,” said Abdel Zahra Kazem, a soldier who was wounded in Baghdad, by the poolside at a hotel in northern Iraq.

    Another swimmer, Rabie Abdellatif, lost his leg in a battle with the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Mosul. His artificial leg, he says, helped him recover “80 percent of my capabilities from life before.”

    “I can drive my car. I can work,” he said. (AFP)

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