Peter Wohlleben, author of the book The Hidden Life of Trees describes how trees cooperate and communicate with one another, have memories, make decisions, have distinct personalities, support their sick neighbors, nurture their children, make friends, and fight off predators.
Wohlleben wants us to start thinking about trees as living sentient beings. He believes if people can do that they may become more passionate about preserving our forests. There are so many ways in which trees enrich our lives and indeed make human life possible on earth. Trees, Wohlleben contends, deserve our respect and protection.
Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair makes much the same argument in his recent column about Lake Winnipeg. He believes if we can officially recognize the lake as a living being in need of protection and respect, it may be possible to overcome the many political barriers in place that are currently stymying efforts to save the lake from an algae problem threatening to destroy it. Sinclair points to other countries like India, New Zealand and Ecuador who have given ‘right to live’ and ‘personhood’ status to items in the natural world.
Both Sinclair and Wohlleben have critics who say their ideas aren’t scientific enough and more practical solutions are needed to protect nature. There may be truth to that, but I think if their efforts can draw attention to an environmental problem and make people understand and properly appreciate the value of trees and lakes and other living things then I’m all for it.