Dites-Moi La Vérité, Monsieur Giono!
Mentor:Andy Wallis, Associate Professor of French, Department Chair, Whittier College
With buoyant optimism, Jean Giono conveys the uplifting spirit of humankind and the inexhaustible potential of the individual in his short story, “L’homme qui plantait des arbres.” Yet, this environmental science essay, written in French, examines the idealistic and utopian world created by Jean Giono. Drawing on the works of many academic scholars, such as Jared Diamond and Carolyn Merchant, this essay questions and challenges the environmental repercussions of human actions. Although the protagonist of the short story has the utmost respect for nature and the best intentions for the environment, he naively alters the land to irreparable effects. By implanting certain plant species, the protagonist aesthetically transforms the barren, dry land into a lush, vibrant paradise. However, this essay uncovers the severe destruction, lurking beneath this ostensibly blissful sanctuary. The primary points of discussion are the agricultural effects on soil richness, water supply, distribution and scarcity, as well as the land’s carrying capacity. Giono portrays human intervention as a heroic gift of God, yet the true impact of humans on nature is revealed by the environmental costs on the land. Akin to the moral expressed by Jean Giono, the preservation and conservation of nature, as a whole, lies in the hands of humanity. Yet, it is not merely enough for one to possess the desire to improve the environment, one must also be fully engaged and proactive in their approach, as well. The human race must rise to the challenge and accept the responsibility to be extremely vigilant and progressively minded when it comes to the nature of the land.