Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Trying to understand life among trees

I've read reviews of Peter Wohlleben's 2015 book The Hidden Life of Trees that took issue with the way the renowned German forester tended to anthropomorphize nature. I don't know how to feel about that but watching Jorg Adolph's documentary -- also The Hidden Life of Trees -- the benefits of accompanying Wohlleben on a tour of many forests more than compensate for any reservations you might bring. Besides, at this point, anything that alerts us to our rapacious consumption of the natural world should be welcomed. I won't try to summarize Wohlleben's entire approach, but its essence involves the idea that trees are sentient beings. They have their own coping mechanisms and socialization processes and can care for one another. I'm probably guilty of oversimplification and it should be said that Wohlleben isn't against the use of wood, arguing instead for efficiency over speed. If we take our cue from trees -- which he describes as occupying nature's slow lane -- we would pay more attention to what we're doing to the world in which we live. Among the places Wohllenben visits, a spot in Sweden where we see 'Old Tjikko, a 9,550-year-old tree. It's helpful to think of forests as living organisms that can be used for human benefit but which must be respected -- not least of all because we need them to slow the impact of climate change. So file The Hidden Life of Trees under an ecological heading and, while you're at it, cross your fingers that it's not too late to heed its message.

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