TREES! Most ancient of Earth beings. Trees have been hanging out on and breathing for M. Earth for hundreds of millions of years. Today - Earth Day - we’re tuning into their wisdom to access some new tools for acting like a plant in the world today.
Teachings from the trees, inspired by learnings from The Hidden Life of Trees by German forester and ecologist Peter Wohlleben:
- Leverage your network!
Trees network together and keep in touch via their underground root system and above-ground chemical signals. Over centuries, fungi can network an entire forest. Networked forests are stronger and more resilient to an unpredictable climate and disease.
- Share resources
Families of trees help create a consistent local climate and keep each other healthy - often sharing nutrients and resources via fungal networks around the root tips or through interconnected root systems. Sibling trees will even go so far as to keep dying relatives alive - siphoning sugar and nutrients to relatives even when they are no more than barely visible stumps.
- Friends that go together, grow together
Trees in a forest often bloom together so that the genes of many individual trees can be well-mixed. And, they have an ingenious mechanism that scientists don’t fully understand wherein they can FEEL and block the arrival of native genes and allow only fertilization by diverse non-native genes to ensure genetic diversity. Trees, man.
- Use what ya got
Trees, and Nature itself, are enormously adept at recycling and re-using resources. There is literally nothing that Nature wastes. This one, my friends, is frickin’ huge. Our economy is a far cry from Nature’s. Plastic pollution is literally poison.
Recycling is a start. Practicing zero-waste and re-use techniques is even better. Investing in design and designers committed to a post-waste future is the best. Because here’s the dream: a circular economy in which our waste is not wasted but becomes constituent element of other “new” things: new packaging, building material, fuel for ourselves and our gardens.
- Give shelter
Tree canopies create brilliant habitats for millions of other species. Trees are truly the mothers of the forest, providing an abundant space for all of life. Our actions interrelate to others’ in complex, myriad, and unseen ways. We do not grow alone; we ARE the forest.
- Catch the light
Young trees that grow in the shady understory develop extra-sensitive photo-receptors on their outer branches to capture the light. In this moment when headlines and data paint a dark and dismal portrait of an Earth’s future if warnings go unheeded, these industrious young trees are a reminder to stay connected to what we love about nature, for we too will need to energy of that light.
- Create with abandon
Ready to have your mind blown? Statistically speaking, an adult tree raises exactly one adult offspring to take its place during its lifetime. This is true for species like beechnuts, whose adult trees individually produce about 30,000 beechnuts every five years. And it’s true for poplars, whose mother trees produce up to 54 million seeds each year. Some of those seeds will sprout and root and live for a while. But many will be eaten or will die. Talk about abundance!!! All of those babies, only one tree.
- Slow down
Trees take an enormously long time to grow. A Bristlecone pine, the longest-lived tree species on the planet, can live to be many thousands of years old. It may look like nothing’s changing, but persistent effort does yield results. Trees make it happen. So: act like a plant. Our choices matter. Keep going/growing.