If you look out your window now or go outside and move around your neighbourhood in the next couple of days, there is one outstanding feature that you will see, but most probably take for granted… Stumped? Well, there’s around 60,000 varieties of them globally, the largest concentration of these native varieties can be found in Columbia, Indonesia, and Brazil. In Ireland the most common native tree is now the Ash, followed by the Oak, Rowan, Birch, and Willow. While in the UK, the most common types of trees are the Common Ash (European Ash), the Aspen, Silver Birch, Sessile Oak, and the Sweet Chestnut. But as with most natural things on this planet, human habitation is influencing the trees, and so this month’s first book review looks at how trees can turn the tide and be an enormous ally in our attempt the save not only the human race, but the planet too. The book is The Power of Trees – How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them, by Peter Wohlleben and published by Greystone Books (www.greystonebooks.com) on the 20th April.
Trees don’t need humans, but we need trees, to survive. Despite our best effort to destroy the planet via climate change, trees will return, just as they have after ice ages, catastrophic fires, storms and deforestation. In this follow up to his Sunday Times bestseller, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter dismisses the tokenism of tree planting. Just as he compared forest trees to ‘families’ and suburban trees as ‘Street Urchins’, in this book he uses similarly powerful metaphors to equate tree planting to battery farming, while also ecstatically describing their determination to survive, and seedlings as ‘stalwart tree Children’. He also describes how trees pass on knowledge and how they survive climate change too. While lambasting governments and large corporations, who plant trees, just for logging purposes and exploitation. The Power of Trees is a heartfelt letter to the forest and a passionate argument for protecting nature’s boundless diversity, not only for the trees, but also us.
I found the book interesting, although not a cover to cover read, but more like a small coffee table read. Something you can dip in and out of over a couple of days. The descriptions of how trees have mouths in their leaves which help take in water, while their ability to read the atmosphere and adapt to drought conditions, were some of the many fascinating parts of the book. So was the story of how peas, like Pavlov’s dog, could be taught to turn to the direction of a puff of wind, when it is aimed at them in the dark, had me marvelling at mother nature, and plants in general. As I said at the start, we may take these living, breathing organisms for granted, but as Peter reveals they are far more than just slow moving oversized plants, that provide shade in the summer and can be a plaything to clamber around, in your youth.
This is German author and forester Peter Wohlleben’s (www.peterwohllebenbooks.com) Tenth book. The others, which are aimed at young and old are, What’s Wild Outside Your Door (2023), Forest Walking – Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America (2022), The Heartbeat of Trees (2021), Do You Know Where the Animals Live? (2021), Peter and the Tree Children (2020), Can You Hear the Trees Talking (2019), The Secret Network of Nature (2017), The Inner Life of Animals (2016), The Hidden Life of Trees (2015). Peter’s books are worldwide bestsellers, he lives in Wershofen, in Germany. Where he manages an ecologically conscious forest and runs an academy for education and advocacy.
After reading this book and looking over its predecessors, I realised what I was reading was the work of Germany’s answer to Sir David Attenborough. Although, being interested in plants, trees, and botany, he’s more like David Bellamy. These books are a fascinating read and if you’ve previously read Bryson’s A Walk in The Woods, then maybe read Wohlleben’s Forest Walking. I’ll definitely be looking to give his books for younger readers to my nephews and nieces.
So, walk down to your local bookshop, even swing by on your vine or bicycle and reserve a copy. Otherwise go online and download a copy, may be even listen to them on audio, while out walking in your neighbourhood. Then prepare to discover the delights of trees and nature with this enlightening and amazing author.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.