“Finding The Mother Tree” by Sara Wright

Susan Simard received her PhD in Forest Science and is a research scientist who works primarily in the field. Part of her dissertation was published in the prestigious journal Nature. Currently she is a professor in the department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia where she is the director of The Mother Tree Project. She is designing forest renewal practices, investigating the ecological resilience of forests, and studying the importance of mycorrhizal networks during this time of climate change.

Susan’s research over the past 30 plus years has changed how many scientists perceive the relationship between trees, plants, and the soil. Her intuitive ideas about the importance of underground mycorrhizal networks inspired a whole new line of research that has overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems as a whole. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships that form between fungi and plants. The fungi colonize the root systems of plants providing water and nutrients while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates. The formation of these networks is context dependent.

Continue reading ““Finding The Mother Tree” by Sara Wright”

The Ability to Feel and to Feel the Feelings of Others by Carol P. Christ

The term “panpsychism” is made up of two Greek words: pan, meaning all, and psyche, often translated mind or soul. Panpsychism is the view that (forms of) soul or mind or consciousness are found throughout the web of life. This view is in contrast to the traditional western philosophical and theological consensus that having a soul or a mind is what sets human beings apart from other forms of life. In contrast, mystics, children, and many indigenous people assume that human beings are not the only form of life with consciousness.

Traditional western thinkers believed that God created the world out of nothing according to principles in his mind. Those principles included the idea that minerals, plants, and animals are “lower” unconscious forms of life, while humans, angels, and the deity are not only “higher” forms of life, but are the only forms with consciousness or mind.

This view was still widely held when I was in graduate school in the late 60s and early 70s. My professors mocked anyone who dared to suggest that animals—including family pets—had any form of consciousness or feeling. However, the notion that human beings are essentially different from other forms of life creates an unanswerable question for evolutionary theory: how did human beings with consciousness or mind evolve from forms of life that had no consciousness or mind? Continue reading “The Ability to Feel and to Feel the Feelings of Others by Carol P. Christ”

Tree Talk: Dr. Susan Simard by Sara Wright

Scientist Susan Simard is a professor of forest ecology at the University in Vancouver, British Columbia, who has been studying the below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction. Over a period of more than thirty years this field scientist and her students have learned how fungi networks move water, carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen between and among trees as well as across species. Her research has demonstrated that these complex, symbiotic networks in our forests — at the hub of which stand what she calls the “mother trees” — mimic our own neural and social networks. This groundbreaking work on symbiotic plant communication has far-reaching implications that include developing sustainable ways to ‘manage’ forests, and to improve tree and plant resistance to pathogens. Although much of Simard’s research occurs in forests, she has also studied the underground systems of grasslands, wetlands, tundra and alpine ecosystems.

Under our feet there is a whole world of biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate and share resources and information. Other scientists who study these networks (like Dr. Merlin Sheldrake) agree with Susan who suggests that the forest behaves as though it’s a single cohesive organism. Continue reading “Tree Talk: Dr. Susan Simard by Sara Wright”

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