Friday, May 31, 2019

Trees of Life

The film above is from Patagonia Films - Treeline: A Story Written in Rings, available in full for the first time. Follow a group of skiers, snowboarders, scientists and healers to the birch forests of Japan, the red cedars of British Columbia and the bristlecones of Nevada, as they explore an ancient story written in rings. Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist working in the old-growth forests of British Columbia, discovered that trees “communicate,” or share carbon with each other, through giant fungal networks under the ground. In the film, she explains why we might have deeply rooted (no pun intended) connections to these immobile giants. “When we look at the pattern of a mycorrhizal network,” she says, “when we actually dissect it and look at all the mathematical relationships, it’s the same pattern as a neural network…it’s kind of like a brain.” The principles of this ecology, plus its application to urban planning and urban forestry, is discussed here as being grounded in Frank Lloyd Wright's view of design with nature.

Trees are not just a symbol of life, they are the actual givers of life on this planet, providing oxygen, food and nutrients and absorbing carbon. Yet our human civilization is bent upon destroying these crucial life-giving forests for energy and profits. Extensive documentation of the global dwindling forests has been done over the last 30 years, and time is running out on conserving them. World Wildlife Foundation studies deforestation and and the increasing rate of forest degradation. The main cause of deforestation is agriculture (poorly planned infrastructure is emerging as a big threat too) and the main cause of forest degradation is illegal logging. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute.

Are there ways to push back at the local level? An example is provided by: Planting Trees as Resistance and Empowerment: The Remarkable Illustrated Story of Wangari Maathai, the First African Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize. This blogpost examines a lifetime of forest renewal by a woman who used social strategies and organizational protest to protect and expand the Kenyan forests. On October 8, 2004, midway through her sixty-fifth year, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. By the end of her life, the movement she started had planted thirty million trees, re-imagining the ecological and economic landscape of possibility for generations of Kenyans to come, and modeling for the rest of the world a new form of civic agency standing up for nature and humanity as an indivisible whole.

Forest Trends goes further with very specific larger efforts and global financial strategies in their series about how forests are our best climate hedge. There are very specific approaches outlined towards saving and expanding our natural carbon sinks, and there have been historic difficulties in establishing markets for conserving tropical forests, among others.

Our planet is on the cusp of collapsing with its ecosystem decimated by human growth and consumption. A new report explains how close we've come to irreversible changes in our environment, and urges immediate, global action.This report suggests ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ starting in 2050. The climate change analysis was written by a former fossil fuel executive and backed by the former chief of Australia's military.