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Intelligent Trees

A discussion of Intelligent Trees: The Documentary
Intelligent Trees

Thursday, September 17, 7:30 pm

This discussion of Intelligent Trees: The Documentary features forest ecologist Suzanne Simard and forester Peter Wohlleben, moderated by Bruce Clarke. The documentary explores the interconnectedness and communication between trees in forests through underground fungal networks known as the "wood wide web."

Key points from the discussion:

  • Simard's scientific research has shown that trees are linked together through symbiotic relationships with soil fungi, forming a massive network through which trees share nutrients and information.
  • Wohlleben argues that trees are intelligent in how they collectively shape their environment for the benefit of the whole forest. Clear cutting disrupts these social networks between trees.
  • The panelists reflected on the use of anthropomorphic and familial metaphors like "mother tree" in the film to describe ecological processes. They debated whether these metaphors help communicate scientific ideas or overly impose human attributes on nature.
  • Indigenous perspectives on seeing the forest as a living, interconnected community were contrasted with Western scientific views. The indigenous worldview resonates with the recent scientific findings.
  • The poetics of forests were discussed - their shade and habitats can't be quantified, but foster human creativity and spirituality. The health of humanity and forests are interlinked.
  • Questions were raised about forest fires in the Western U.S., and whether indigenous forest management practices could help prevent future catastrophes exacerbated by climate change.

Overall, the discussion centered on new ecological understandings of forest interconnectivity and the search for languages, metaphors, and worldviews to describe relationships in nature.