woensdag 22 december 2010

If the forest is empty so is the mind

There is no all embracing definition for 'forest', as exemplified by one UN position paper that found 950 working definitions. Cryptoforestry, as psychogeographical urban alpha-weed management on punk principles, would stress the psychological effects of a forest rather than canopy cover or land use as of importance for classification. In the west we take for granted monocultures as if they are the only way (see earlier) and after reading David Quammen's 'Monster of God', a hefty, finely nuanced, tome on the socially constructed relationship between human and man-eating beasts (bears, lions, crocodiles, etc) I suddenly realized that the forest, and all 950 definition of it, suffer from the same myopia of ingrained poverty. The poverty is not just biologically or materially but psychologically.

In conservation theory the concept of an 'empty forest' is well established. Empty forests are defauned forests from which many ecological interactions have vanished at the cost of the overall richness of the ecosystem. The literature deals mainly with (sub-)tropical forests and this is perfectly reasonable: in Western Europe forests have been empty for so long that we can barely imagine them otherwise. The good news of course is that forests, even the Dutch ones, are being replenished from the east with wolfs and perhaps, in some distant future, with bears. Scaremonger cival servants are already crying wolf: your toddler may be the next dinner for the big bad wolf. Better eaten by a wolf than crashed into by a car (an event more probable by at least 1000%) I'd say. 

The point is not that wolfs and bears are needed to fulfil ecological functions that are now null and void, the point is that a forest with such animals fuels the imagination and adds zest to life, even to those who would never visit such a 'full' forest. The wolfs in fairy tales are not just stories about animals in the way Disney films use 'acting' dogs and pigs, they are stories rooted in the experiences of people with wolfs. As far as I know all fairy tales portray wolfs as inherently bad, not as tricksters but as criminals, this mindset must be changed before the wolf can become part of our forests again. If the forest is empty the mind is empty too.

Tree of Eugenia sp. surrounded by fallen, undispersed fruits.

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