From when he was just a boy, St. Barbe could tame the wildest of horses. He loved exploring the woods and forests around him on horseback.
One day, St. Barbe took a ride through the woods on a beautiful black stallion. Sitting squarely in the saddle, St. Barbe looked up at the gigantic trees that stretched up above him. The canopy of branches and leaves overhead was so thick that the sunlight barely peeped through to the forest floor below.
As the horse roamed through the woods, more and more sunlight started to filter through the canopy. The dark green leaves gave way to the bright blue sky. In awe of the changing colours above, St. Barbe didn’t notice the changes in the forest below. The stallion, on the other hand, noticed fewer trees in his way and started to pick up his pace.
Suddenly the horse let out a loud ‘Neigh!’ reared his head backwards and galloped ahead.
‘Whoa!’ shouted St. Barbe in surprise. He grabbed the reins with both hands. His hat went flying off his head. ‘Whoa!’ he yelled again, this time yanking the reins. ‘WHOA!’ Finally the horse came to a stop.
St. Barbe climbed off the horse and gently guided it to where his hat had landed. He bent down to pick it up. As he got up, he looked around him and gasped. He could not believe his eyes.
Instead of a forest filled with tall and towering trees, he saw an empty field dotted with tree stumps. There was not a single tree left standing.
‘How can this be?’ he wondered. He started to feel sick in his stomach. He knew that something was wrong.
‘We are chopping down trees faster than we are planting them,’ he thought to himself. ‘We need trees as much as we need oxygen and water. What will happen when there aren’t any trees left on this earth?’
St. Barbe closed his eyes.
He remembered when he was five years old, he had wandered alone into a forest and had gotten lost. But, rather than feeling scared, he had felt completely safe. With all the trees around him, his heart felt full of joy. It was as though the tall trees, with their long branch-like arms, were hugging him, comforting and protecting him until he found his way back home.
St. Barbe opened his eyes once again. He looked around him with a heavy heart. ‘An earth without trees is unthinkable,’ he thought to himself. ‘Trees give us oxygen, fruits, wood, water, and medicines. An earth without trees would destroy our planet. We need trees to live on our earth.’
He took a deep breath, put on his hat and climbed back onto the horse. Placing his hand on his heart, St. Barbe made a promise that day to do everything he could to restore the disappearing forests in the world.
St. Barbe died many years ago, but his promise continues to be kept today. As a result of his vision and efforts, over 26 billion trees have been planted and continue to be planted around the world.
Did You Know?
- In 1924, St. Barbe founded an organisation to plant trees. This organisation, today known as the International Tree Foundation, exists in over 100 countries around the world.
- The billions of trees planted by this organisation protect and safeguard our planet.