Green with Empathy

So, something I haven’t mentioned yet is that I am a through and through hippie. I’m an environmentalist at heart and I’m very passionate about all things relating to conservation, specifically, preventing ecosystem damage and deforestation. In fact, I’m so into it that my siblings gave me the children’s book “The Giving Tree” (which I highly recommend if you have kids by the way) for Christmas this year (embarrassing!).

I come by it naturally (pun intended). My family owns a fishing and hunting lodge out in the middle of the great Canadian north. I grew up on a lake, in the middle of the bush, and there’s so much that the earth has taught me. My relationship to natural resources is strong because I grew up with an appreciation for what it truly looks like when we take from the land. I know that if I caught a fish for dinner, there was one less fish in the lake, and that I had ended it’s life to fuel my own. I had a visual for what it meant to take water from the lake to shower, drink cook…in dry years the water levels would be low and you would ration. I’ve seen how trees, like mothers of the forest, house animals that depend on them for shelter and food, and I’ve seen from the view of a bush plane in the sky what “selective clear cutting” looks like…a dry sore that litters a lush green canopy.

Though there’s a lot being done to save the earth, I don’t think it’s yet enough. But how do we convince people to make changes in the small habits they have each day? How do we motivate people to understand how small actions can add up overtime?

My favorite strategy as of late has been empathy. I feel that if people truly understand how plants live and perceive the world, if we can connect with them on an emotional level, maybe people would be more sensitive to their current struggle to survive.

You may think I sound crazy when I say that plants can feel, but there’s actually a whole discipline in science that is currently studying plant consciousness. The results are astounding! Plants can feel, communicate, and even have social connections. This on top of the fact that they: provide our oxygen, stop landslides with their roots, protect endangered species…should be enough to convince everyone to take a second look at the way we abuse our resources. I may even add that after having read two incredible books (that I highly recommend and will review next) what I have learned from the way plants live and cooperate has inspired me, and I think as humans we have a lot to learn from them. So here follows 2 book reviews that will help you understand how plats view the world and a fun short story I wrote to help teach children about natural ressources 🙂

1)What A Plant Knows-A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz

This book tacles plant consciousness from a different angle. It accepts that no, plants are not thinking creatures like humans, however, they are sensual creatures. Using neurological anecdotes, it explains many experiments that show how plants experience all the same senses as us such as hearing, sight, smell, touch, etc. Plants can see and react to colours, they can smell danger, they can hear and differentiate music types! Examples of plants that respond to environmental stimuli with stunning behaviours will capture your curiosity…and the author’s sense of humour throughout the book will surely capture your attention!

2)The Hidden Life of Trees-Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

This book is a compelling description of the social lives between trees in a forest. Written by a forester who left industrial forests in a favour of ancient forests, it compares how trees in an environment cooperate and interact in order to survive including: sending and receiving danger warnings, sharing ressources, how trees decide social classes between them and even that they have nurturing instincts towards their young! The thing that hit me the most from this book was learning that these social behaviours are only displayed in naturally occurring forests, that trees planted by humans after a forest is cleared will never be able to connect to “the wood wide web” that connects all the plants of the world.

I hope you get a chance to read these selections as they’ve change my life and world view profoundly. For now, please enjoy this original short story: King of the Lake

Every summer, Little Ash traveled far from the city to stay with his grandparents in the old log cabin in the bush. Little Ash loved going to the log cabin! There, they would play games, read stories, have campfires, Gramma made cookies, and every morning, Grampa would take him out on the lake to fish.

They would hop into the small, old boat that had a small, old motor and they would put put put out to the middle of the lake. “I got one!” they would say when they reeled in a beautiful, big lake trout from the water and into the boat. “Let’s catch more!” Little Ash would cheer. But every time, after they had caught 1,2,3 fish, Grampa would turn the boat around to go back home.

“Why don’t we stay and catch more fish?” Little Ash asked one day. “Because”, said Grampa. “We already have enough. One for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner. We don’t need anymore than that”.

A few years went by and Grampa was to old to fish anymore, so Ash took the boat out by himself. He caught 1,2,3 fish all in a row. “Wow!” he thought. “I could stop now…or maybe I could try to catch just one more?” By lunchtime, the small, old boat was full of fish, and that night they all enjoyed a great big feast!

The next day, Ash set out again. He caught 1,2,3 fish and he thought, “Wow! I wonder how many I can catch today?” But his luck had run out, he waited all afternoon under the blistering sun but there were no more bites. Then suddenly, BANG! he felt the BIGGEST FISH EVER bite onto his hook!

“Wow! We will sure have a feast tonight!” Ash thought. He tried his hardest to reel the fish in, but it was too strong. It pulled the boat side to side. It jumped all over until finally SNAP! it broke the line and Ash dropped his fishing rod in the lake with surprise.

Ash drove back sadly to the cabin with just three small fish. He was sad to tell Grampa that he had lost his fishing rod, and they wouldn’t be able to eat any fish for the rest of the summer. He told Grampa about the big fish that broke his line and Grampa said, “Yes, it sounds like you met Big Louis today. He is the King of the lake, the Guardian of the fish school, and he only takes rods from those who take too much from them”. Grampa patted him on the back, and they joined Gramma for some lunch and yummy cookies. They ate only salad and vegetables for the rest of the summer.

The next summer, Grampa bought Ash a new fishing rod. He would set out every morning on the small, old boat with the small, old motor and  catch 1,2,3 fish then come back home. They never went hungry again, and he never ever saw big Louis, guardian of fish, King of the Lake.

That’s all for today! In the future I may post about some sustainable living challenges I’ll be taking on in September when I’m back at school. If a student on a budget can reduce their consumption and carbon footprint, I’m hoping that I can inspire you to as well.

So go out there and hug a tree for me today!

Yours truly, the pressed roses in that old book



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