One of my goals for the new year is to read at least six environmental books. My first was a beautiful book about how trees in a forest feel and communicate: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. Did you know research shows trees behave like human families and human communities? Tree parents live with their children, communicating and supporting them. The trees in a undisturbed forest also function socially, helping the sick and warning each other of dangers.
The author Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany; his book was recently translated into English due to high demand.
The book starts out like a love song to trees and forests (and this was my favorite part!) and then it continues on like a layman’s textbook teaching how trees grow, survive, and die. Most interesting (to me ) is that the trees in forests work together for the success of all.
Trees as socialists
In the chapter titled “Social Security,” Wohlleben tells us that undisturbed beech forests “synchronize their performance so that they are all equally successful.” And “a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.”
He discusses how trees can even warn each other of danger by releasing smells.
The remaining pages go on to tell you everything most people would need to know about trees and how they survive and thrive and why they are so important to our environment. I likely learned some of this previously in my life, but the format wouldn’t have been nearly as friendly as this text.
He says it is no surprise we see trees as objects:
“The main reason we misunderstand trees, however, is that they are so incredibly slow. Their childhood and youth last ten times as long as ours. Active moments such as unfurling leaves or growing shoots takes weeks or even months. And so it seems to us that trees are static beings, only slightly more active than rocks.”
But this book shows this is not the case; trees are incredible beings with their own beautiful hidden activities. I won’t ever look at trees the same.
Save our trees!
It is the author’s hope – and mine – that a better understanding of trees as beautifully explained in this book will help us all appreciate and better protect our undisturbed forests, which are vital to the future of our planet.
What should my next environmental read be?
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