“The end of the human race will be that it will
eventually die of civilisation.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The end of the human race will be that it will
eventually die of civilisation.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few months ago, I saw several posts on social media about how trees communicated with each other. At the time, I didn’t bother to look into it any further, but recently a friend put up a link to a TED talk by Canadian scientist Suzanne Simard (embedded below).
She came from a family closely associated with trees – her grandfather was a logger and when she started work, she also found herself in the logging industry. Fortunately, the relentless destruction caused by intensive logging and clear cutting of forests didn’t rest well with her conscience and she could no longer be a part of it.
She went back to studying and researched a lead into tree to tree communication. She has been able to prove that many species of trees work together, asking for carbon as an example, and other adjacent trees respond by giving it. But not just carbon – many other of the essentials of tree life can be asked for and given in a two-way relationship.
How did I miss this? It’s so amazing, breathtaking and groundbreaking that it should be major news shouldn’t it? As the realisation and extent of what’s happening starts to sink in, it’s really making me think, on a deep level about trees, about nature and about the part humans play, particularly in the destruction and use of trees.
…it’s really making me think, on a deep level about trees, about nature and about the part humans play, particularly in the destruction and use of trees.
Humans have clearcut old growth forests all around the world, and continue to do so right now. Deforestation is not just an issue in the Amazon, it’s an issue in the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Borneo, China and so on. When you clearcut, you don’t just kill the trees, you destroy the entire ecosystem that trees are the hub of, so fungi, insects, birds, mammals are decimated often to the point of no return.
And when ‘we’ replant forests, we plant the best thing for humans – cash crops – monocultures of the trees that will grow fastest and tallest and yield the highest profit. No longer do we have the diversity that was once there, and therefore, the mono cultures are prime sites for attack by pests and diseases.
I’m sure I read last week, that Sweden had logged over 95% of its old growth forests (if anyone can verify this, please let me know…). Although we tend to think of Sweden as a country covered in forest, it seems humans have stripped it bare and replanted commercial monocultures. The same is true of Finland according to some of the writing of Finnish philosopher, Pentti Linkola.
So, does the news that trees communicate affect you in any way? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Part of my job involves working with wood. I generally love it – being creative and making something that is highly visual, useful and that people can appreciate the effort I’ve put in.
I started off doing a lot of the work with hand tools, however over the years I’ve moved over to more power tools. Part of the move has been economic – it takes much less time to produce something using power tools – part of it is also accuracy – a power tool can quickly achieve a perfect cut and getting lines straight and true makes a big difference.
But power tools take you even further away from the essence of wood and from the lessons it can teach us. We become so removed that we might was well work with plastic or concrete. Wood has a heart and soul. Wood teaches us to slow down, to look, to feel, to listen to be intuit.
However, there is as aspect that sits slightly uncomfortably with me. Most of the wood I use was grown outside the UK and is highly engineered. I know little to nothing about the origin of the wood, the landscape, the environment – what, if anything, is being done about re-planting? Was the land clear-cut (disastrous for nature) or were trees picked out to allow recovery time? There’s also the fact that my skills revolve only around using pre-prepared wood. Presented with a ‘tree’, I wouldn’t know what to do.
Getting back to the essence of working with simple, minimal materials is something many crave and this lovely short video of the Stone Dahl family from Wisconsin, USA really whets the appetite! Although from the USA (material availability will be very different from the UK or other places), there is much to learn from what they do and their respect to the tree…
As quoted in Mark Boyle’s book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi…
How is it conceivable that all our lauded technological progress
– our very Civilisation –
is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal?
~ Albert Einstein
Mark Boyle is a permaculturalist, an activist and a writer (amongst many other things). One of his most notable achievements was living for 3 years without money (ie he personally had no cash, savings or bank cards), the result of which was a book ‘The Moneyless Man’.
So what led Mark to do this radical act? After his business degree, he moved from Ireland to the UK and worked with an organic food company. During this time he came to realise that “money creates a kind of disconnection between us and our actions”, which in turn led him into his experiment in living without money.
Once the press got hold of his story, there were many who criticised him for the fact that although he personally had no money, people were giving him stuff that initially had to be bought and earned. Those people significantly miss the point about what Boyle was trying to achieve, which is less about not having money and more about understanding and being responsble for it’s connections.
Anyway, I digress slightly. I just wanted to give you a bit of background on him in case you didn’t know who he was…
Today, Mark posted the following on his Facebook page (he’s now returned to Ireland, and although not moneyless any more, he used royalties from book sales etc to set up a ‘freeconomy’ which includes a free pub!
Amidst our anger about the brutality and violence of ISIS, we seem to forget that to the millions of other species on Earth, Industrial Civilisation must feel like ISIS on steroids.
I don’t say this to be dramatic or controversial, or to in any way make light of the horrors inflicted by ISIS (and the US, UK, French governments etc.), but simply to help us retain some perspective about the way of life we seem so eager to want to protect.
Some animals we cage so tightly they can barely move — billions never breathe fresh air or see natural daylight before they’re slaughtered. Our precious way of life drives tens of thousands of wild, free creatures into extinction every year. Through our ecologically-idiotic agricultural practices we make deserts and monocultures out of once fertile soils and diverse landscapes, killing the uncountable life-forms that once lived within them. We’ve bottom-trawled the oceans to the point where marine populations are outright collapsing, and ecological systems with it. To forests and rainforests, we are butchers who know no limit to our violence. From the perspective of the rest of the community of Life, ISIS are pussycats in comparison.
Somehow we cannot seem to see this. We never see our own violence and brutality, only that of other people, and only when it is done to things that lie within our parameters for moral consideration. Because our civilised world is so manicured, hiding the systemic hyper-violence it depends on behind closed doors, we think we live peaceful, nonviolent lives. But we don’t. We need to start being honest about this.
And he’s right. ‘We’ can’t seem to see what we are doing to the Earth and all her inhabitants, whether they be animals, trees or simply the land itself. This is the land that provides us with everything we should need, but not everything we greed.
Every day, we bring ourselves closer and closer to that tipping point (some say we are already there) from which it becomes impossible to rescue the situation for humans. The Earth will survive beyond humanity, but along the way, we create so much suffering.
[Image credit: Wikipedia]
Mark’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mark.boyle3?fref=ts
Whether we realise it or not, we wield an enormous amount of power over the natural world, and yet ultimately we have to live by its laws. We (‘civilised’ humans) have created machines of mass destruction – capable of ecocide – that we seem to wield without thinking too much.
I appreciate that if you want to dig a foundation for a house or need an area of ground levelled quickly, then a mechanical digger can do in minutes what would be hours of back-breaking labour for a human. But with that power, comes immense responsibility to use it wisely.
Our next door neighbours are having their driveway expanded and covered in tarmac. As part of the improvements, a beautiful Magnolia tree was ripped out of their lawn in seconds. Shortly afterwards, the conifers you see on the right of the picture were gone too.
From a selfish perspective, our previously private lounge, where the view was of green, is now laid open and bare. It’s a shock and one that we’ll adjust to, but probably not accept. We’ll mitigate things by planting a taller hedge on the boundary and regain some privacy, but my heart is pounding with sadness and loss.
Of course I also realise that I am a hypocrite to an extent. Our house sits where there was probably woodland, or at least fields (which would have been woodland at one point in the past). Every time I drive my car, I’m using roads that were built by tearing up the natural world, and even if I didn’t drive, goods and services that I purchase travel the roads or airways and were grown or made in a manner that has caused some destruction.
It’s just a very sobering thought, looking at how much destruction one man and one machine can do in such a short amount of time. In other parts of the UK, and across the world, machines ten times larger than this one do untold damage in our quest for progress and to enable us to have ‘stuff’.
Once in a while I think we all need to stop and consider the consequences of our daily actions, and act with that knowledge in mind.
At the other end of the destruction spectrum is a lady called Emma Orbach. She lives in a mud hut in Wales, without electricity. I’m not suggesting everyone could or should live like this, but she is an inspiration.
I’ve had a lot of feedback since reviewing Rachel Corby’s book, ‘Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature‘ and I’m even more inspired to learn and act on the lessons within the book and to rewild myself, little by little.
From reading the book, I have a head full of questions – in some ways, I wonder whether it’s possible to ‘rewild’ yourself and then go back to an ordinary life? Once you unlearn some of the modern crap we’ve come to accept how could it be possible to step back into what most consider an ‘ordinary’ or ‘civilised’ life? Surely as you rewild, you pass some point of no return? We’ll see.
I’m keen to walk my talk and not just consign the wisdom I’ve learned into a ‘have read’ pile on the floor. I also attending some ‘mindfulness’ classes, and likewise, I want to make sure I take the lessons on board and act on them.
One way I’m thinking is to actually have a plan for the future. I tend to just get on with life on a day-to-day basis and although I’ve changed some aspects of my life, there is no overall plan. Sure, I have goals in my head, but no plans of how to get from here to there.
By chance, I discovered a blog today where the author (Kim) had written a post “What is your true purpose in life“, and as part of that, had listed some aspirations. I hope Kim doesn’t mind me listing an edited few here (do check out her blog for the full list and other wonderfulness: Spiralspun.com)
In fact, there’s very little in Kim’s list that I wouldn’t also add to mine. Some are different ways of looking at the same and could be grouped under similar themes such as ‘live a mindful life’ and so on, but they’re all great ideas.
The one that I’m not completely sure of the meaning is “to live the life of the wild wolf woman inside and open my heart to others to join me” – I suppose for me, being male, it would be to connect on a deeper level with other men, to talk and support each other, to forget about all the competitiveness and bullishness that is often associated with the male aspect and to be able to talk and open up to each other in a supportive manner.
One of the things I definitely want to do is more creative stuff. I already write in a journal, but I want to do more of that. I have also been gifted a good quality pyrography machine. The photo above is my first effort – it’s the tree Ogham, with the centre Ogham of Birch as it was burned onto a birch wood disc. My inspiration is the wonderful book, ‘The Tree Ogham‘ by Glennie Kindred.