Walking away from the castle down the gravel path towards the cedar airman, every step takes me further into a medley of deep intense or light bright shades of green. The short-mown path has a greater clarity as the grasses and wildness by comparison are so tall either side and the trees above are unfurling their leaves at a great rate although each to their own in terms of speed. Some are slim, delicate leaves like the ash, others are rounder, clustered along their branches such as the beech, the silvery sorbus or the rustling lightness of the birch.
Pausing to look either right, left or further ahead into the distance, everything seems luxuriant, peaceful and calming to the mind. The views offer dense splodges of green, enthusiastically clothing the slopes of Siddown Hill and obscuring the shapes of the clearings with their luxuriant denseness. The shades and textures seem infinite and harmonious, their architecture very different from the harder and often-disrupting shapes introduced by humans.
Every day I enjoy the same walk and every day it is different even though the plants and trees themselves cannot move. Over the millennia trees have had to adapt to a changing landscape but the biggest risk to them is from human expansion. Planet earth has lost one third of its trees in the last 10,000 years but over half of that figure has been since 1900 and the relentless rise of global industrialisation. It is not just the issue of deforestation either but the increasing stresses of heat and drought bought on by climate change.
We know that we need trees to breathe and to live on this world and they are also responsible for a world of diversity in themselves, not just in their overhead canopies but through their roots as well. The mycorrhizal fungi in their root systems span huge areas connecting trees and plants through a hidden underground network. For example, a sapling may well rely on nutrients and sugar from older, taller trees which are sent through the mycorrhizal network.
It is not an easy time for trees and they are not something that can be quickly or easily replaced. Tall trees take centuries to grow and it is careless to cut down our old friends unless it is certain that the benefits will outweigh the long-term costs. We need to all start thinking about the journey rather than short term solutions.
One of the buzz phrases of today is in the endless offers we receive to offset the carbon emissions inherent in our purchases through tax or other trading incentives and schemes. This seems a somewhat meaningless version of paper shuffling as we all know we have to reduce the actual carbon emissions, not just trade virtual offsets. Likewise, the new paperless currencies, the bitcoins, may save on paper and metal but use so much electricity in their “mining” process as to be more harmful to the environment than the originals. Financial papers report that for example bitcoin servers use as much electricity (in the main fossil fuel resources) every day as an entire European country…
Of course, in one of humanity’s endless contradictions, having become stressed from the life we have lurched into, apparently we then need to “bathe” in trees to restore us. Green is a calming and healing colour, it symbolises the renewal of life, and the new growth is hope for the future.
Humans look for both novelty and reassurance, provoking and inspiring different thoughts to take us forward on ever faster paths. Perhaps we need to simply sit down and work out what we really want and need.