Ever since I was a child, I had been instilled with a deep connection and appreciation for nature. Trees in particular were fascinating. Climbing them as high as I could safely go was one of my favorite pastimes. Discovering a new vantage point was both thrilling and inspiring. Every opportunity I had to be outside, I would explore my backyard and the forest beyond. The world seems so vast and limitless when you are small.
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.Nelson Henderson
When I wasn’t exploring outside, I loved reading books to expand my mind. I can recall The Giving Tree in particular. After the tree had given so much to the child, when he grew up he decided to cut it down. I remember feeling sad for the tree, and wondering why the man would end the life of something that had given him everything — without expecting anything in return. The story should have more accurately been called “The Taking Man.”
FernGully: The Last Rainforest was one of my favorite movies as a child, although the underlying message frightened me. I was once again moved by the threat of civilization encroaching on nature. According to an article by Greenpeace, “Tropical rainforests are estimated to harbor more than half of the world’s plant and animal species.” Should we not protect them?
Stories about the negative impacts of urbanization, industrialization, and war evoked tremendous sadness in my young heart. It was unethical and wrong. I wondered, “Why are we destroying rainforests when they provide an essential ecosystem for biodiversity and oxygen? Why are we mistreating the planet?”
When I was young, I did not understand the cruelty and greed that humans are capable of. Life seems simple — until you grow up. We are all aware of the exploitation that our kind has inflicted on the planet, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. As a result, the human race along with all living things is equally suffering. Now we are feeling the repercussions of our actions. I believe that we have the potential to do better — to be better, but we lack motivation.
Conservation photographer, writer, and Co-Founder of SeaLegacy, Cristina Mittermeier has beautifully described our connection with nature. “Biodiversity matters, because a diverse system is always more resilient than one formed by a single species. When we advocate for the protection of species, it’s not just because they’re beautiful and interesting. It’s because diversity is critically important to maintaining ecological balance on Earth. As we all have learned in the past few months, when a disease or virus comes along, being a super abundant species is one of the reasons we are vulnerable.”
The crucial fact that humans have overlooked is that we are all interconnected. Remember in Guardians of the Galaxy when Groot sacrificed himself and said not I am but instead, “We are Groot.” There is a resounding truth in these words which transcends beyond the film. We are many, but we are one.
Although we may consider ourselves superior, we are not separated from any other living thing. Our lives have an impact on everything around us. Perhaps if we took the time to actually observe nature, we would understand.
Imagine that the earth is the tree and we are a leaf.Thich Nhat Hanh
One day while I was sitting in my backyard enjoying the shade of the enormous oak trees, I decided to look up. Sunlight was streaming down from above. Spanish moss adorned the tree canopy, gently blowing in the breeze. The tree trunk itself resembled a giant arm reaching for the sky. At that moment, I could feel the magnificent awe and childlike wonder in the presence of trees again.
It is impressive how trees can support the weight of their countless branches at the top. As I looked closer, I realized that the canopy was not formed from a single tree. What I observed above me was one tree intertwined with all of the limbs and branches of the surrounding trees combined. They collectively provided the strength and foundation of support for each individual tree to reach the canopy and thrive.
These massive trees within the grove have survived through hundreds of years and hurricanes together. I mentioned the importance of using your imagination in a previous post. Imagine what we could do if humans followed their example. We can learn from trees to peacefully coexist as they do. Rather than competing for the sunlight, they help to support and lift each other up instead.
Trees provide a beautiful symbol of what we should strive to be. Taking only what they need, and leaving plenty of resources available for their neighboring companions. Each one is uniquely beautiful and serves an instrumental purpose. Trees are vital to our survival. We should revere their wordless wisdom. Nature can teach us so much about ourselves if only we take the time to observe, listen, and learn.
Now is the time to repair the damage done and restore vital ecosystems while giving back to nature. You can make a difference. Check out tentree if you are interested in helping to contribute by remotely planting trees around the world while supporting a forward-thinking company with sustainable products. Or simply plant some trees in your backyard to create your own oasis. Even the oldest and largest trees once began their journey as a tiny seed.