Planting Trees Under Whose Shade They Shall Never Sit: Explanation

Have you ever heard the quote “A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit”? This quote is often attributed to the Greek philosopher and historian, Gaius Plinius Secundus, more commonly known as Pliny the Elder. While the origins of the quote are debated, its message is clear: a society’s greatness is measured by its ability to look beyond the present and invest in the future.

The True Meaning of the Quote

At the heart of this quote is the importance of long-term thinking. When we invest in something that we may not personally benefit from, we are investing in the future of our society. Whether it’s planting a tree or investing in education, the impact of our actions may not be immediately visible, but it will be felt by future generations.

One example of long-term thinking is the conservation of natural resources. By preserving forests, lakes, and oceans, we ensure that they will continue to provide resources for future generations. This is not just an investment in the environment, but an investment in the health and well-being of future societies.

The Role of Sacrifice

Another important aspect of the quote is sacrifice. The “old men” in the quote are not planting trees for their own benefit, but for the benefit of those who come after them. They are sacrificing their own comfort for the benefit of others.

This type of sacrifice is not limited to planting trees. It can also be seen in the sacrifices made by parents for their children, by soldiers for their country, and by volunteers for their communities. When we prioritize the needs of others over our own, we create a stronger, more interconnected society.

The Power of Legacy

Finally, the quote highlights the power of legacy. The old men in the quote may never sit in the shade of the trees they plant, but their legacy lives on. They have left behind something that will benefit future generations, and in doing so, they have contributed to the greatness of their society.

This idea of legacy is something that we can all strive for. By investing in the future, sacrificing for the greater good, and leaving behind something of value, we can all play a role in creating a better society for those who come after us.

Applying the Quote to Our Lives Today

The quote by the ancient Greek philosopher, “A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit,” is just as relevant today as it was centuries ago. In fact, it might even be more important in our modern world. With environmental issues such as climate change and deforestation, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless to make a difference. However, this quote reminds us that every small action counts and that we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place for future generations.

One way we can apply this quote to our lives today is by taking action to protect our environment. We can plant trees, recycle, reduce our use of plastic, and support environmentally-friendly initiatives. These actions might seem small and insignificant, but they can have a significant impact on the world around us. By planting a tree, we are not only providing shade for future generations but also helping to combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Another way we can apply this quote is by volunteering in our communities. Whether it’s volunteering at a local food bank or mentoring a child, these actions can have a positive impact on the people around us. By giving our time and resources, we are helping to create a better society for everyone, including future generations.

Finally, we can apply this quote by thinking about our own legacies. What kind of world do we want to leave behind for future generations? By living our lives with purpose and intention, we can create a better world for those who come after us. Whether it’s through our careers, our families, or our personal passions, we can all make a difference in the world.


In conclusion, the quote “A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit” is a powerful reminder of our responsibility to future generations. By taking action to protect our environment, volunteering in our communities, and living our lives with purpose, we can create a better world for those who come after us. Let us all strive to be like those old men planting trees, leaving a legacy of a better world for future generations.

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