18 March 2021

Transforming the Way We Live With Trees

 


Forests, our “green lungs”, are a crucial part of life on Earth. Together, the world’s forests host the largest array of biodiversity on the planet, including 60,000 tree species, 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species. Millions of people still live in forests, and billions rely on them for their day-to-day livelihoods. Forests play a critical role in global weather cycles and climate regulation, producing over 40% of the world’s oxygen and preserving watersheds that provide our drinking water. In short, forest care and restoration is essential for the future of our living planet – and by consequence, ourselves.

Yet, crucially, forests are valuable in a non-quantifiable sense. Like all ecosystems, forests have been the seat of spirituality and the mythic imagination since time immemorial, revered for their inherent beauty, power, aliveness and spirit. This idea is the bedrock of the Indigenous worldview, though it has largely been cast aside in the Western world.

“Tangibly and intangibly, forests feature in all aspects of culture: language, history, art, religion, medicine, politics, and even social structure itself. Forest trees may house the spirits of ancestors as well as those of the newborn. And forests are viewed in both positive and negative lights as sources of evil as well as power and munificence, as providers for, and hindrances to development. The mystical qualities of specific forest resources often play a crucial role in traditional healing practices. Forests provide the venue for religious, social, and healing ceremonies.”

Holistic approaches to forest care put this non-tangible sense of value at centre stage. While Western environmental narratives tend to focus on the natural resources ecosystems offer and their sustenance of human life, holistic approaches widen the picture to include nature’s spiritual value and inherent worth. And while ‘traditional’ conservation often prioritises one or a number of species for specific results, modern initiatives are taking the bigger picture into consideration, reconciling scientific approaches with the sacred, honouring the inherent intelligence and complexity of nature and recognising that environmental action must be grounded in a radically new relationship with the natural world.

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