I am deep into “The Hidden Life of Trees.” This exceptional book by Peter Wohlleben explores the little known world of trees. The language is simple, but the message profound: trees are sentient beings.
They feel. They talk. They care for each other.
In thinking about today’s damaging and divisive political landscape, it appears to me as if we can learn much from trees. Especially in regard to how they work together.
We can plant trees, but we cannot plant forests. Forests are created by trees collaborating and supporting each other in extraordinary ways.
We learn from Wohlleben’s book that trees share nutrients and water with each other. They are careful to grow in a manner that doesn’t interfere with their friends’ growth. When under attack from insects or other predators, they let other trees around them know so they can defend themselves too. They nurse and shelter the young saplings in the forest. They equalize the rate of photosynthesis so that all members of a species––weak or strong, thick-trunked or thin––end up with the same amount of sugar per leaf.
Trees aren’t just concerned with their own survival; they are concerned with the well-being of the whole: the forest itself.
As with the human world, there are hermit trees that would prefer to have nothing to do with others. But as Wohlleben writes, trees will simply use fungi to get around any blocks and keep their underground communication system going. They know how important it is to keep talking to each other, whatever obstacles are put in their way.
It isn’t that certain trees don’t dominate, or that all trees get along equally well (trees also have tribal tendencies). It’s that in the long run they care more about the web of life then any individual life, even their own.