Trees have feelings, you know that if you ever climbed a tree and stayed anytime at all, especially in a tree that seemed injured or marked to be cut down.
A month ago I went to Georgia and saw what drought can do to a wetland, but the drought has also turned pine trees into torches and forced evacuations in dozens of communities in the southern Appalachian mountains.
Forests in seven southeastern states are burning and the drought conditions have contributed to more forest fuels being available.
Many of the forest fires burning in the southern states are located in the ancestral homelands of the Cherokees. Our trees are burning and it brings me a great sadness. Years ago I got to spend some time in the valley Cherokees discovered Hernando De Soto and listened to an old song about our first sightings of the horse. Former Vice Principal Chief of the Cherokees Hasting Shade taught me how to make a long bow by cutting a long slice of a tree taking 1/4 of it. It would not kill the tree he assured me, and there high in the trees in that forest were long healed over scars the length of a long bow at least 30 feet above my head.
These trees are at risk now in these fires and another piece of our Cherokee connection to the land that makes tears fall will be lost. The beauty of what we left behind and a way of life gone forever is now at risk of fire.
I discovered in The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben that to save the world’s forests we must first recognize that trees have innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees. Trees are sophisticated organisms that live in families, support their sick neighbors, and have the capacity to make decisions and fight off predators. Trees can learn, and can remember a drought its whole life and act on that memory by being more cautious of its water usage. Trees are oxygen producers, timber producers and creators of shade.
Wohlleben believes humans are weakening ecosystems by indiscriminately cutting timber. We destroy tree social structures, and destroy their ability to react to climate change. We end up with individuals that are in a bad shape and susceptible to bark beetles.
With climate change there is more CO2 so trees are growing 30 percent faster than decades ago which makes trees less healthy and more susceptible to illnesses. The wood is also of lower quality, so the price we get for it is going down. The cells of these fast growing trees actually become bigger and more susceptible to fungi.
Remarkably this week Alaska Airlines landed the first commercial flight powered in part by a new renewable fuel made of wood waste. The demonstration flight used a 20 percent blend of jet fuel made from cellulose derived from limbs and branches that typically remain on the ground after the harvesting of sustainably managed private forests, known as harvest residuals.
Cellulose, the main component of wood, is the most abundant material in nature and has long been a subject of investigation for producing sustainable biofuels. The harvest residuals used to make fuel for this flight came from forests owned by Weyerhaeuser in Washington and Oregon, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes in Montana, a place I visited but couldn't see the mountains for the smoke from their neighboring forest fire.
I sat under the Supermoon with the Lorax family in Fairland and was reminded that they took that last name after the character of Dr. Seuss' book, The Lorax, who spoke for the trees. Nick and Kelda of course speak up for the good of mankind and the sustainable use of our earth and her resources. But definitely have gone on record as ones who speak for the trees.
Images of the pages from The Lorax come to mind, as I imagine the processes happening in the Weyerhaeuser forests as harvest residuals are collected to feed the need we have for fuel. That and the forest fires burning in the Cherokee homelands makes me want to speak for the trees, too.
Respectfully Speaking up for the Trees ~ Rebecca Jim