Going Home by Paul Pritchard
Being amongst the trees has a powerful effect on people. Going to the forest is like going home for us - a long distant memory that we can’t quite put our fingers on. We came down from the trees well over a million years ago but the feeling of being in the canopy lingers still in our genetic memory. There is a sacredness about trees. We just have to wander into a quiet forest, put out our hand and, closing our eyes, touch a tree.
That is why Gilgamesh made his expedition to the Forest of Cedars, and why at the very centre of The Garden of Eden stood The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (of which humans were not to eat). This is why Antonio Gaudi chose a forest of stone pillars to hold up the roof of the great Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Great texts from the past are littered with descriptions of forests and trees and this is no coincidence. Our lives are enmeshed with these great trees, these great beings.
Down the ages people have realised that trees are essential for human life, human flourishing. We know of the beneficial effect trees have upon us from walking in a forest, stopping, touching a tree’s rough bark, filling our lungs with phytoncide-rich forest air. In Japan (and now lots of other countries) this is known as Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing. Shinrin Yoku is backed up with science and has been shown to reduce stress levels and blood pressure and increase longevity.
It makes sense then that an intact forest is a healthy forest and this fact on its own should be enough to prevent a patchwork of coups and roads from invading takanya/ Tarkine, or indeed any forest that has stood unmolested for thousands of years.
There is much to learn about our giant co-inhabaters that dot our world.
In recent decades it has gradually come to light that trees communicate through an amazing network of fungal and root connections. The remnants, and that is what we now have, remnant forests, must be protected simply because we need to find out what they communicate about. What are they saying to each other?
As I write Australia’s largest tract of temperate rainforest is being brutalized with access roads chopped into coups the size of football stadiums that are due for logging. Much is already lost. A look at the satellite imagery reveals a matrix of holes poked into the forest that create an assault from all sides on the remaining patches. A consequence of this destruction is hotter, more destructive fires.
As a big wall climber, I have slept on countless cliff faces from the arctic to the Karakorum. In Patagonia I once slept in a porta-ledge for three weeks straight on a huge vertical face. However never in a tree. So, I am excited to be sleeping in the canopy for the first time. To experience living in amongst the trees as our distant relatives once did.
I read the Bob Brown Patagonia blog in The Roaring Journals about how he was there “to defend the wildness which was the universe of the takayna people when they, like the forbearers of us all, lived in awe of and harmony with this one planet which cradled us into existence.” I could not hope to say it any better than that.
I will be there with all the other activists in the trees and on the ground in takaya/ Tarkine forest for The Big Canopy Campout 2020. We must strive to protect any ancient forest but a great forest such as that in takanya/Tarkine deserves special recognition
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