The Art of Strengths Coaching

B is for Richard St. Barbe Baker: A Life Planting Trees

In the video above, Richard St. Barbe Baker describes his way of helping to build a better world.

He believes in showing people the value of planting trees.

Richard’s epiphany came at a young age. Writing in his book My Life My Trees, he describes how in 1894, at the age of five, he had an unforgettable experience that charted his future path.

After much coaxing, his nurse allowed him to explore the woods by himself. He continues:

“No explorer of space probing the secrets of other planets could have felt more exultation that I did at that moment …

“Soon I was completely isolated in the luxuriant, tangled growth of ferns which were well above my head. In my infant mind I seemed to have entered a fairyland of my dreams.

“I wandered on as in a dream, all sense of time and space lost …

“I became intoxicated with the beauty all around me, immersed in the joyousness and exultation of feeling part of it all.

“I had entered the temple of the wood. I sank to the ground in a state of ecstasy; everything was intensely vivid – the call of a distant cuckoo seemed just for me …

“The overpowering beauty of it all entered my very being.

“At that moment my heart brimmed over with a sense of unspeakable thankfulness which has followed me through the years since that woodland re-birth …

“I was in love with life: I was indeed born again, although I could not have explained what had happened to me then.”

Richard was a changed person. Returning from his walk in the woods, he found the commonplace things in life had a new beauty.

The bread he ate tasted crustier and more delicious. The grumpy old gardener looked like a favourite uncle.

His parents gave him even more affection than they had done the previous day.

At least, that was how it seemed. Twenty-six years later he translated this passion into his life’s work.

He visited Kenya in 1920. Enlisting the backing of chiefs and elders, he started a programme that led to planting over one million trees.

He then co-founded The Men of Trees and was invited to speak around the world.

After helping President Roosevelt to establish the Civil Conservation Corp, he instigated the Save The Redwoods campaign in California.

He also started the Green Front action group, returning to Africa to develop re-forestation work in the Sahara. During his life Richard is believed to have personally planted many millions of trees.

He focused on a crystal clear vision. He wanted to save the Californian Redwoods. After crossing America and seeing the trees for the first time in 1931, he wrote:

“It was here that I came upon superb trees representing the supreme achievement of tree growth in the world today. Here it seemed that my search for the beautiful had ended.

“This, I decided must be known as the ‘Grove of Understanding’. It was here that I visualised international plays and youth gatherings.

“What better setting could there be in which to plan the better world of tomorrow?”

Richard then set three goals.

To save the trees for posterity.

To provide a magnificent backdrop where young people could meet and marvel at the beauty of the Redwoods and the planet.

To inspire young people to work together to hand over this legacy to future generations.

Richard has inspired many people to plant trees and contribute towards building a positive planet.

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