Have you ever found yourself stumbling over a dirt path in a forest to avoid tripping over the protruding roots embedded in the ground? Have you ever wondered how far those roots go? Have you ever noticed that shade dwelling trees still thrive without sunlight? The secret life of trees is something quite fascinating and to say the least, magical.
Similar to human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. The Wood Wide Web is a network of tree roots and soil fungi that connects and shares information and goods with all vegetation. The language of trees allows them to send out distress calls against pests through scent as well as produce electrical impulses in their roots (of which spread twice the length of their crown) to alert danger. In short, trees are amazing.
In just about every time in history, global societies had some form of a “tree of life” motif within their culture. Spanning over 1,500 years, our ever-changing cultural relationship with trees have been depicted in many arts forms, from a source of life in ancient Egypt to healing properties in post-impressionism to the industrial revolution that has developed into the current time. Looking out my window I am surrounded by childhood fields and coppices at the mercy of housing developers and machines. My connection with the earth runs as deep as the roots of the forests. Their service to the planet varies from carbon storage and soil conservation to water cycle regulation. They sustain natural and human food systems and provide homes for countless species – including us. Yet we often treat trees as disposable: as something to be harvested for economic gain or as an inconvenience in the way of human development. Since our species began practicing agriculture around 12,000 years ago, we’ve cleared nearly half of the world’s estimated 5.8 trillion trees - that's not cool. Forests are the salvation of our world. Without them, we lose extraordinary and essential functions for life on Earth. It is now more than ever that we must preserve our planet.
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