Arboretum Virtualis | XVI

Black and white tree forest landscape photography

Relaxing on the Beach

A blowdown fastigiate Lombardy poplar still able to bear new green leaves in springtime in spite of most of its root system having been torn out of the ground.

It was Anna Jameson (b. 17 May 1794 – d. 17 March 1860) who posed the question, “How do we know that trees do not feel their downfall? We know nothing about it.”

Although I have respected and benefited from forestry, I’ve never been able to fully put out of my mind that trees may experience some as yet undetectable form of suffering when they are dropped to the earth.

Although Jameson’s words were in fact in protest of industrial deforestation and lament for the great trees that were harvested, I have wondered the same on occasion. Even when trees are brought down through natural causes like this one.

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13 thoughts on “Arboretum Virtualis | XVI

    • I know! Isn’t that something? Nature is far from indestructible but just when you might think that an aspect of it is coming to an end, that’s when you get reminded of nature’s remarkable resilience.

      Just think about how life on earth was able to overcome the odds of the early creation of this planet, and numerous extinction events since even before the time of the dinosaurs, and yet we see a tremendous abundance of life all around us every day.

      • I hesitated to leave that comment because it would seem like I was giving human traits to another class of living entity, but it seemed like a valid way to try to explain what I was seeing. The resilience of the natural world is amazing to me as is its continued evolution.

  1. This is such an interesting question. To think a little deeper than the surface, there’s the suggestion here that trees have a soul or at least are beings that are similar to us humans in some ways. Perhaps they do feel a sense of pain when they come crashing to the ground – you hear them literally cracking apart and it is a massive sound. It can take so long for a tree to grow and so fast for it to come down. In a way, this is similar to our everyday lives – one day we are here, the next day we may be gone, everything can change in an instant.

    Deforestation is certainly more common these days as so many places strive to modernise and globalise. But it’s also worth nothing that bush fires or burning of forests in the summer is getting more common (at least here in Australia and we’re not talking about deliberately lit ones). It seems to be looking grim for nature in the years to come.

    • Yes, while natural forest fires are a natural and important occurrence in certain ecosystems, we need to be careful to not do anything to make them too commonplace; consequently permanently destroying the very ecosystems that fires naturally help to sustain. Consequently causing trees undue undetected stress, and yes, possibly clearing their hypothetical souls from the earth.

      • That is true. Global warming is a cause for rising temperatures, and rising temperatures in turn make forest fires and ice-melting more commonplace. Often, global warming is caused by man-made activities, It seems to be a repeated cycle, a viscious cycle.

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