Wisdom of the ‘Wood Wide Web’

Picture the palm trees of an oasis in the desert, drawing water and scarce nutrients through their roots from a welcome pool in their midst as the hot sun beats down. Are the palm trees like social beings? Do they comprise a social network? Do they learn? Do they help each other? Does wisdom pervade their processes of life, death and regeneration?
In The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, by Peter Wohlleben, a book published in 2016, there are intriguing insights about forest trees as social beings: “They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbours; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the ‘Wood Wide Web’; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.
Wohlleben’s use of analogy and metaphor to convey fascinating science is superb. As indicated on the Amazon site that advertises the book, he convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers.
The book’s primary focus is on the forests of temperate climates like Germany. However, the insights are just as likely to apply to the oases of the Middle East. The metaphorical wisdom of the ‘Wood Wide Web’ is an integral part of the meaning and purpose of Ta’seel – generation, growth, sustainability, regeneration, growth, sustainability, through positive and continuing cycles of learning.

Contributed by Dave Hornblow, September 2017