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Yet the little that is known indicates trees are essential. They are the planet's heat shield, cooling temperatures beneath them by 10C and blocking cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. They are robust filters of our air and water, and soak up climate-warming carbon dioxide. Forests slow the runoff of rainfall.

Many of the world's damaging floods are really caused by deforestation. These functions are well known. But trees play many other critical roles that we know little about. Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that as the leaves from trees decompose, humic acid leaches into the ocean and helps fertilise plankton, critical food for many other forms of sea life.


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  4. Trees benefit health!

Japanese fisherman began an award-winning campaign called Forests Are the Lovers of the Sea, and planted trees along the coasts and rivers that rejuvenated fish and oyster stocks. Also in Japan, researchers have long studied what they call " forest bathing ". Hiking through the forest has been shown to reduce stress chemicals in the body and to increase NK or natural killer cells in the immune system, that fight tumours and viruses. Elsewhere researchers have demonstrated that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in neighbourhoods with trees in the picture.

Hundreds of different kinds of chemicals are emitted by trees and forests, many beneficial.

Taxane from the Pacific yew tree is a powerful anti-cancer drug. Many other tree compounds are proven to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and even to prevent cancer. The active ingredient of aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, for example, comes from willows. Recommended by doctors to prevent a range of cancers, as well as heart attack and stroke, some believe this chemical in the wild has a medicinal impact on the health of all creatures as it is aerosolised into the air and water, and breathed in and drunk.

Yet, it hasn't been researched.

TREE OUR BEST FRIENDS

Trees are greatly underused as an eco-technology — "working trees" — to make natural systems, as well as the world's cities and rural areas, more resilient. They are used here in the US to prevent soil erosion and shade crops. In a neat bit of alchemy, trees can be used to clean up the most toxic of wastes, including explosives, solvents and organic wastes, because of a dense community of microbes as thick as a finger around the tree's roots, a process known as phytoremediation.

The question is what to plant to withstand the challenges of a changing world to assure a world with trees. And a shade-tree farmer from the US named David Milarch, a co-founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and whom I have written about, is making copies of some of the world's oldest and largest trees, from California redwoods to the oaks of Ireland — with proven survivor genetics — to be part of a future forest mix. Before I began this journey I felt planting trees was a feeble response to the planet's problems.

I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.


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In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow. Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.

They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark.

I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail. A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still!

Be still! Look at me!

Tree Quotes

Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning.

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It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother. So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours.

They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.

Community & Social Value

That is home. That is happiness. Betrachtungen und Gedichte. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us. When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.