Young refugee inspired to care for others by Forestmaker’s journey

In 2022 ISCAST fellow Tony Rinaudo, Principal Climate Action Adviser for World Vision Australia, wrote The Forest Underground. Published by ISCAST, it won the Christian Book of the Year award in 2022. In this article, 15-year-old Iranian refugee Amir shares how the book awakened in him a concern for the environment. 

I would be confident in declaring that Tony Rinaudo’s life story, displayed in his book The Forest Underground, is an excellent example of a life to which one can aspire; it is an encouragement to work hard towards goals that benefit others.

After leaving his birthplace in Myrtleford, Victoria, Tony spent 17 years in Niger, Africa, and during this period, he discovered an astonishingly simple and low-budget method of regenerating land by restoring vulnerable trees rather than planting new ones. Not only do these regenerated trees act like sponges for carbon but they also attenuate the effects of poverty.

This solution (Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration or FMNR) isn’t just a pipe dream; it has been put into action. This process starts from small beginnings, utilising fundamental tactics throughout the journey and ultimately achieving set goals. These goals produce sustainable solutions to problems that will soon confront the globe. Encouragingly, it’s clear that these solutions will leave a positive, permanent impression because FMNR has already regenerated millions of hectares of what was once viewed as unrestorable and deserted land. Not only this, but it has reduced our carbon footprint and has transformed the lives of people who were once in helpless and dire circumstances.

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Tony’s book “completely changed the way I view things, from focusing solely on benefiting my future to now being aware of people living under indescribably worrisome circumstances.”

I discovered valuable knowledge in this extremely effective storytelling that I can use to improve outcomes in the future, not only for myself but more importantly, for people in poverty and for economically unstable countries. It completely changed how I view things, from focusing solely on benefiting my future to now being aware of people living under indescribably worrisome circumstances that I, and people in societies like mine, haven’t truly experienced.

Within his Christian faith, Tony displayed a unique resilience in the difficulty of trying to persuade farmers to employ his simple and effective solution to improve agricultural productivity and reforestation rates. This resilience is, to me, one that is difficult to uphold, yet Tony shows how valuable it is by being a major element that can lead to purposefulness and success in life.

Tony’s faith, passion, humility and the relationships formed during his journey significantly contributed to his success in innovatively regenerating the areas to which he was assigned. During his groundwork, he experienced scepticism from others and almost faced hopelessness, yet he didn’t yield to adversity. He formed a solution that was almost like a fantasy – one so simple, economical and effective.

Tony’s faith-based journey is eye-opening, showing us that achieving meaningful goals is not impossible. By using his technique, extensive pieces of land can be reforested while synchronously combating climate change – accomplishing two goals with one deed. He provides ways for people of different social positions to unite and collaborate, demonstrating how collective action can promote ecological restoration. Such a humble author deserves much respect and admiration for fulfilling such an indescribably purposeful life while also acknowledging how his faith in God guided him through difficult times.

Originally from Iran, Amir arrived by boat as a refugee some years ago. He loves reading, bike riding, soccer and computer games with friends. About his faith, he says, “Christianity is a completely life-changing thing. It makes my life healthier, fulfilling, and joyful. It encourages me to help others and love the Lord.” In the future, he wants to help others by being a police officer.

Tony’s book The Forest Underground is still among Koorong’s bestsellers. 

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The Forest Underground: Hope For a Planet in Crisis

Tony Rinaudo

Available from Koorong

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