The Secret Life of Trees
By Peter Wohlleben
Published in August 2018
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
This book has been recommended to me by 4 or 5 different people, most notably my mother and my wife. Because I needed a break from history, I decided to pick it up.
I have never found trees to be particularly interesting. Boy, was I wrong.
Trees exist in a sort of naturally evolved neural network. They are highly responsive to their environment, and communicate via long and interconnected root systems and chemicals that they release in the air.
Trees provide resources to help nurture their young, and continue to feed dead tree stumps so conserve the soil. They can even identify and eliminate cheaters who take advantage of what Wohlleben calls the “social security” of the first.
Trees are not defenceless against predators. They release pesticides to ward off insects. In cases when these pesticides fail, some release chemicals that attract predators who hunt the insects. Many provide habitats for birds and creatures which eat their predators.
Finally, Wohlleben explains why modern forestry fails. His arguments against forestry remind me of those made in Seeing Like a State. He explains how monocropping and policies that opt to grow fast growing conifers rather than indigenous trees hurts rather than helps the environment.
Overall, this was a truly fascinating read. Next time I need a break from history, I will be sure to pick up some of Wohlleben’s other books.
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