Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

The Secret Life of Trees …

Review of …

The Hidden Life of Trees
By Peter Wohlleben, 2015
Translation from German by Jane Billinghurst, 2016
Publisher Black Inc.
260 pages, incl notes
Forward by Tim Flannery
36 short chapters
76 references (English & German, published & unpublished)
Forest Scientist note
Printed on FSC paper

The Hidden Life of Trees’ central premise is that trees feel, respond, nurture others, communicate with each other and other species, have memory, can learn new behaviours – essentially they have dynamic emotional lives.

This concept challenges what we are taught from a young age that such things are only possessed by us and the higher animals.

When us or such animals are deemed brain-dead, it’s medically known as a vegetative state – devoid of feeling, volition, memory, sentience.

Helpless.

Ethically, on this belief, it is then acceptable to treat trees and plants how we wish without any guilt or afterthought.

The author, Peter Wohlleben, vocationally was an industrial forester, who changed tack in line with his convictions emerging from a lifetime working with trees.

Wohlleben walks the reader through deconstructing the base assumption that trees do not feel, and explains his rationale for arriving at his understanding of the emotional life of trees.

The concepts presented are supported by selected research, making it difficult to dismiss such a paradigm shift in understanding the reality experienced by plants.

The prose is narrative, reflective with selected supporting evidence from academic literature which is referenced. But it’s not heavy on the academics – the science lends a supporting act to the narrative which itself is based on an individual’s extensive experience, observation and reflection.

Easy to read, even technical concepts are explained in layman’s terms. You certainly enter the mind and thoughts of the writer and see the forest through his eyes and paradigm. Astute upper primary schoolage children could read this book, and I’d certainly give it to budding young naturalists.

Reading this book progressed my thinking that anthropomorphisation is itself an increasingly empty anthropocentric construct – the arrogant belief that humans alone possess emotions – which in mechanistic reality are the hormones, neurotransmitters, and other cellular messengers, electrophysical currents and pathways and capacity for stored memory, largely dictated by genetics and operating in a complex, open, environmental milieu (that is, epigenetic).

Using anthropomorphic arguments against the sentience of ‘lower’ life forms ignores this science of emotion and memory. The reality (generally oblivious to most lay people) is that scientists, physicians, veterinarians etc can measure and manipulate what is collectively known as emotions, in the lab, clinic, or operating theatre.

What seems as cold, hard science is in fact wondrous, beautiful and creates such a profound flow of energy that I find it impossible to not be endlessly fascinated by what happens in the minute details of nature.

Yes, it’s true we can certainly misinterpret interspecies emotions, but heck we barely manage to understand other human’s communication! So logically, based on our current knowledge, we cannot disprove nonhuman life emotion. And, it seems more evidence is pointing to its existence.

This is a paradigm shift in how modern understanding of life must now impact on our behaviour toward it. Yet people since time immemorial appear to have had this understanding, intuitively.

What I appreciate about this author is that he challenges, and convincingly refutes, forest doctrines with not just evidence from what he has literally seen, but with what is emerging from the latest rounds of forestry and arboreal research. This takes guts as anyone who challenges the status quo in a knowledge base is sure to have their opinions and ideas scrutinised to the highest degree.

I found that this book reminded me of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in that the author joins the dots to arrive at a profound and deep-reaching conclusion.

It will ring so true with many readers looking to validate their feelings.

It will be vehemently dismissed as drivel by those committed to traditional beliefs about the value of non-human life.

Yet others may discover a completely different world around them, and as a result, develop empathy for a diminishing naturalness.

It is my hope that readers realise not just the obvious facts that we are losing precious forests at horrific rates, not just the ecosystem services that trees and all vegetation communities provide, but, they make excellent company and healthy companionship as well.

*Dr Nicole Anderson has probably spent more time in her life communicating with nonhuman life than actual humans. That is despite seeing 30-40 patients a day in her Smithton Medical Practice for the last 10 years. Anyway, all humans’ own body cells are outnumbered 10 to 1 by bacteria on the same body. So understanding interspecies communication is a medical necessity! As a GP Nicole has experience and expertise in Wilderness & Environmental medicine, genetics/epigenetics, Sports medicine and nutrition. The rest of her time is spent running, studying anything from archaeology to DIY renovation, or outside enjoying, exploring & learning about the great known and unknown.

Australian Geographic: People are ‘blind’ to plants, and that’s bad news for conservation Plant blindness is more than an interesting quirk of human perception. It impacts on our efforts to care for and understand plant species.

Late Night Live Legend Phillip Adams interviewed Forester Peter Wohlleben on Wednesday night on his astonishing global smash-hit, which has already been translated into 19 languages … here’s an extract: … Unmanaged forests can cool down up to three degrees more than managed forests … trees have to deal with climate change … nowadays we are cutting a lot of timber for example for biomass power plants … we fire climate change by hurting the forest … therefore it would be better to reduce our consumption and leave a bigger percent of the forest alone …

• John Hayward in Comments: Even if, like most of us, we don’t give a stuff what other people, much less other life forms, are feeling, you should be shaken by discoveries about what plant sentience tells us about how little we know about the complexities of the ecosystem …

• Ted Mead in Comments: Fantastic review Nicole! – This book should be a mandatory read at primary school because as a child we are far more receptive to the laws and attractions of our natural world.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Jack Lumber

    September 17, 2016 at 3:29 am

    Ted. I have odrdered my copy via Amazon and like others I look forward to reading it , learning from it and watching how others use the book and any findings .

    William . An exemplar contribution . many will be taking screenshots as it no doubt has left a mark .

  2. William Boeder

    September 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    So many Tasmania past present and resigned State government ministers must, even be it by their own choice, need to cast themselves upon their very own swords that have been employed to poke and prod the Tasmanian people over the past say 20 plus years.
    I recall how recently the State government had urged the State police to provide a guard of honour to escort the Forestry Tasmania personnel in their larcenous actions to destroy entire eco-systems, let alone all that grew vertical in so many of the planned ancient and rarefied logging coops in various regions of this State.
    The recipients of these plunders are of course the Ta Ann super-cheap high quality log recipients seeking exotic timber veneers through their production plants, as a highly profitable sideline to just veneers for various layered ply boards.
    Even worse is that trees not suitable for saw-logs or for Ta Ann exploitation are negligently classified residue logs suitable only for the wood-chippers.
    The terminology of ‘forest residues’ or ‘logging residues’ could only have been interpreted by Forestry Tasmania or one of their bowing and scraping funds dependant agencies.

    Given that the research and facts discovered by Peter Wohlleben are considered more empirical than any prior publications on the life of trees, this pales the forest propaganda previously peddled across this State by the scientific guru’s, sponsored by this State government owned GBE, is in my opinion a classic form of criminal intent and well as an engagement in criminal negligence.

    Furthermore the intelligence that is hosted by the Institution of Foresters of Australia has now been seen for what it truly is; which has lately become a front for the ongoing deforestation of Australia’s traditional forests.

    As such this institution needs to be revoked of its order or its authorities or even institutional rag-tag, so that the people of Australia can finally be appraised of the truth.

    Here in Tasmania it is not a far-fetched notion that the true powers of government are in fact held by the Ta Ann rogues and their Tasmanian management team being the proxy server to the Sarawak owned and internationally corrupt big-boys of world-wide rain-forest destruction, once it was claimed to be Tahib Mahmud, now as far as Tasmania is concerned it is said to be Hamed Sepawai.

    Second to Ta Ann as an all empowered State authority, are the wood-chipping entities that are both predator and parasites upon the Crown Land forests of Tasmania, (though they be incorrectly labelled as Tasmania’s production forests.)
    The 3rd level of authority in Tasmania over and above the laws of the State and over Tasmania’s Crown Land Forests, (bearing in mind that their authority to engage in their destructive conducts is the fact that the State government owned and heavily in debt GBE known to Australia as Forestry Tasmania, are those claimed to be holders of the 3rd power of State Authority in Tasmania.
    Let’s be fair and honest in recognizing that Will Hodgman is little more than cardboard cut-out that is supposed to resemble a State Premier, thus to have negligible Authority in Tasmania.

    I propose to expand further on this subject matter with my probing further into the depth of the history of both Forestry Tasmania and the former Forests Commission that played their part in the corruption believed extant to this very day in this State of Tasmania.

    My understanding at this point in time reveals around a about 2 dozen individuals that have actively engaged and sought to continue the criminal-like activities in this State’s past and present, so better that these persons be known to all Tasmanians than just as they be guessed as to who they be.
    I would like to think that this reality and fact about the State of Tasmania will provide a substantial critique of that which should never have been.

  3. Ted Mead

    September 16, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Fantastic review Nicole! – This book should be a mandatory read at primary school because as a child we are far more receptive to the laws and attractions of our natural world.

    Nurturing and developing our intuition in our early years is essential, unlike adults who seem incapable of thinking beyond the norm, as we become deeply entrenched in an archaic mindset regarding the inherent values of this primeval earth.

    Unlike the fictitious and inculcate New Testament that espouses and preaches that nature is for mankind to dominate over, I will be reading this book with zest and appreciation.

  4. john hayward

    September 16, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Even if, like most of us, we don’t give a stuff what other people, much less other life forms, are feeling, you should be shaken by discoveries about what plant sentience tells us about how little we know about the complexities of the ecosystem.

    A quick reflection on the quality of the readers we are able to support around the world should be enough to exterminate hubris.

    John Hayward

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