Forest of the Mind: on People & Trees 5th July 2019

On Friday 5th July an audience of some 75 persons attended a most interesting talk by the distinguished biologist, author and campaigner, Dr Amy Jane Beer.

She posed the rhetorical question, “When did you last thank a tree?”, and explained why trees are so important to Humanity and what a huge debt of gratitude we owe them.

She highlighted the fact that trees have formed an integral part of the cultural heritage of Humankind. The “tree of life” symbolises the unifying forces of nature and its continuity. Its growth from seed to sapling, from sapling to a tree with deep roots, strong trunk and branches reaching up to the sky, anchored it as central to the Planet’s ancient cultures.

For example for the Mayans the tree was the centre of all creation: the living expression of the bond linking Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. It represented the inter-connectedness of everything in life.

This is understandable she said, in that apart from providing shelter and nutrients for many forms of life, trees provide us human beings with the oxygen we breath, as well as food, materials, and medicines, all essential for our wellbeing.

The best way to understand and thank trees she urged, was to know their names and so begin to appreciate the beauty and value of each.

She encouraged us to repay that debt (“For every tree that is cut down 1,000 should be planted”) and concluded with the thoughts that a) left to decay naturally, the remains of an individual tree become part of the extraordinary continuity based on the soil; and b) the reminder that the Latin for soil, earth, humus, is the root of our words Human and Humanity.

Editorial Note: Out of this event was born a new project for QE: encouraging villages to plant their own local wood. Anyone with ideas as to how this might be taken forward please make contact on

You may also wish to read the book “Wilding” by Isabella Tree to which Amy made reference. One critic (with whom the Editor agrees!) says of it “… riveting book captures the excitement and immensely powerful new idea: that to save our beleaguered wildlife, we should move beyond conserving what remains – we should restore what we have lost.”

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