The Wisdom of Trees
By Tanja Abbas, written for the #COP26Glasgow nov. 2021
ON THE PHONE WITH SCOTLAND
‘Unfortunately, the lands of Scotland are in the hands of a few people. They are big estate landowners. You are permitted by law to walk the land and camp outside, but they do not always like it when you do. So don’t be surprised if someone during your walk is asking you what you are doing on their land.’
I am on the phone with friends of a friend, living in Scotland, who I never met before. I am asking them all kinds of questions to prepare for a Tree pilgrimage which I initiated with a few Guardians of the Forest friends, around the Mount Schiehallion during the UN Climate conference in Glasgow (COP26). Although I have been in Scotland before and I like adventures, I don’t know this area. Besides the boggy moorland and steep hills, the area is covered with beautiful lakes and small springs flowing around. You can’t walk easily from A to B and there are no walking signs on every corner like in The Netherlands, so some local information is very welcome.
‘Are you sure you want to sleep in hammocks and use tarps?’ It can be very cold and wet in November, so you need good gear if you want to, but the basic challenge is that you need trees. And sadly enough, there are not many trees and forests left over here. It is grass, heather, lots of sheep and cattle.’
‘Ah, that’s strange’ I reply. ‘When I looked on the map I used, I saw green parts, indicating forests and it was also saying ‘Forests’, even with an old Scottish name’.
‘That’s the thing. Sometimes areas are still named after the old forests which were once there. Even though the forest is gone, they still call it that way.’
His answer supports my intention for the Treewalk, which is to raise awareness for the wisdom of trees in these challenging times. Especially the critical situation of the forests of Europe in relation to our global forests have my attention. Or should I say the lost forests of Europe? After the last Ice Age, this continent was covered with forests, but due to thousands of years of exploitation by human beings, there’s not much left of the old growth forests. There are still bits and pieces, but most are ‘near-natural’; used for production. Trees became a commodity in our modern society, instead of a sentient, sacred being which deserves our respect, just as so many other natural beings on our common planet.
TREE TIPPING POINT
Mainly due to this behavior - for there are also big Cosmic cycles influencing our planet and change is the one thing which is constant - the amount of trees on our Earth is reaching a tipping point. There are about 3 trillion now, from about 6 trillion since the last Ice Age. And of course, it’s not about numbers, because trees are not ‘just’ numbers. It is also not about ‘just planting more trees’ because the challenge is a biodiverse, healthy forest. But sometimes you need numbers to get a message through. And the message is quite clear. You don’t need rocket science or a lot of scientific evidence and political debate to know this number is a critical one for every living being on Earth.
Already before and ever since the Covid pandemic, which is, ironically effecting our lungs and therefore our breath of life, I’ve been astound by the control and demand approach. The web of regulations is getting tighter, diffused and polarized every day, raising a lot of anxiety and fear. To me, this is all symptom relief. It’s a big sign that most humans in modern day society lost the connection with the natural source of life. Pride, competition, and greed started to dominate our behavior, which is the root cause of the current, unbalanced situation on Earth.None of the species on Earth, including us, can survive in a Treeless world. If we think we can, that’s complete foolishness and pride to me. None of our high-speed technologies, scientific discoveries, highly educated men and women, management tools and hours of talking by decision makers in our concrete buildings will help. It’s a new story we can create and are invited to, and that’s our willingness to return to our natural state of being in relation to all that lives. If we acknowledge our humble position and interconnectedness in the web of life, we can make much better long-term decisions for the wellbeing of all of the living beings on our planet.
‘The pilgrimage sounds wonderful. You made me enthusiastic. I have other obligations that time also relating the COP26, but maybe I can be a part of a one day track’, one of the friends replies on the phone’.
‘Thank you so much. You’re very welcome to join, also on 11 November at 11 AM, when we will be joining an initiative of friends of mine who organised a worldwide one hour ‘Ceremony for the Earth’, which will be an hour of silence to unite humanity and connect to our Earth. And what are your activities for the COP26?’ I ask in return.
‘I was asked to join a debate on the COP26 in Glasgow, but I rejected the offer. Somehow, it does not feel like the right place to be to make a change. I do a lot of nature based community work and I will support my own community in that way, during that time’.
I can relate to what the friends’ friend is saying about the importance of community-based work. And he understands that I want to be truly present with the trees. It’s a way of connecting that is more natural to me. Still, this holistic approach is ‘not normal’ in our Western society. If you are a person who is able to listen and tune into trees or animals for example, either there must be something wrong with you or you must be a very special gifted person. Neither is the case. Or, if you care a lot about the cutting of trees or the way animals are kept, because you can actually feel it in your own body, you must be a ‘weakhearted person’ or too sentimental. It takes a lot of courage when you have a different reality and experience to stick to your own truth, even if modern society claims otherwise. To my humble opinion, it is this other reality, which is our natural state of being. It is how we are wired. If we are able to open our hearts to this reality, we remember why we came here in the first place; caring for all life on Earth. We can experience this beautiful blue-green planet as a place of abundance, love, and joy coming from a place of deep love for life. It’s the place from which everything can thrive.
Indigenous communities all around the word still know this and live it, most of the time under very difficult circumstances. They feel the natural world we are part of is a living organism; one big ocean of energy. They know we are nature ourselves. By having a sense of place and communicating with nature naturally, they interact in a balanced way with all life. They know which plants cures diseases and are healthy. They communicate with the animals they are tracking and never take more than they need. They know exactly when a flood can come, because they listen to the messages of the wind, delivered by the trees. As they are invited for the COP26, the invitation for the representatives of the different countries is to take their voice very seriously. I recall the fiercely words of the Chadian activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim which I heard during the empowering online course ‘Guardians of the Forest’, hosted by Advaya this year (www.forestguardians.co):
‘Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the biodiversity! But we are not represented as such, because we are not organized by country. The decisions are made by the majority who destroys the ecosystem. I am not surprised that if they take the decisions, it’s impacting us negatively’.
TREES & FORESTS AS A COP26 PRIORITY
To all people somehow involved in the COP26, I would emphasize that the voice of all nature should be heard. But, having said this, to navigate wisely and lovingly in the short term, we depend on the trees as part of healthy, balanced, biodiverse forests first of all. They should have an unquestioning priority at the COP26. To navigate wisely in the long run, we can start listening to the voices of the trees. Trees are much longer on Earth than human beings. They carry a tremendous amount of wisdom, far more than we are able to comprehend at this moment. They communicate with us constantly, and we could learn a lot and co-create with them if we would only slow down, stop and listen to them. Until we realise this deeply within ourselves, trees are patiently and lovingly holding the space for us at this crucial moment in time. For this, I want to pay my respect and gratitude and connect to their wisdom, by walking the Scottish Highlands during the Climate Summit in Glasgow.
Tanja Catharina Abbas - Natural Being
Currently working as an independent researcher, writer, explorer & facilitator on nature connection. She studied Public Administration at Leiden University. She is writing a book about the communication of Trees. She wrote this paper in preparation for her #Treewalk&Talk, a pilgrimage in the Scottish Highlands around COP26 in Glasgow ‘to raise awareness to the voices and wisdom of the trees on Earth, since they are not invited at the COP’.
She’s living with her family in an eco-house in a small forest in the eastern part of The Netherlands. If you want more info about her Treewalk&Talk Scotland you can email: email@example.com or read the blog ‘Treewalk&Talk Scotland on her website: https://www.tanjaabbas.com/blog-1