thinking like a tree: significant humans?

Aldo Leopold offers us a mountain’s view in Thinking like a mountain:

Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf … I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea. (full text on

I decided to start by trying out thinking like a tree (some images on and to make hand puppets, following discovery of Paul Klee’s puppets made for his son, and also the inspiring work of Noa Abend. The first question: who are the significant humans for a tree?

In Phawhope, at the head of Ettrick Valley, significant humans include Fountains Forestry. The website indicates a multinational company, with interests in Europe, US, and Latin America. They broker sale of the rainforest, offer the opportunity for carbon sequestration … and offer a leaflet on woodland management, bristling with plastic tubes. No images of personnel.

Meanwhile the last week has seen an opposition day debate in Parliament calling for a rethink of the plans to sell forests – for example by 38 degrees:

Every single MP heard from hundreds of us this week. But a lot of them will be hoping the fuss will now die down. We need to get back in touch quickly, to prove we are here for the long haul. MPs need to feel we’ll keep watching them until our woods are protected for future generations.

It appears that my MP thought differently, casting a neo-liberal vote in favour of the Government’s plans for  a ‘new approach to ownership and amangement of woodlands and forests’, shifting the balance from Big Government to Big Society.

Thinking bigger – from individual tree to forest – it seems that Ettrick Valley head is to be substantially replanted – an erasure of sheepscapes with another commodity production. Will it become a suitable site to reintroduce wolves? Might wolves restore it to a valley of colours, as Phawhope reportedly means?

Jim Crumley has described the wolf as ‘painter of mountains’, because the reintroduction of wolves to a heavily denuded landscape causes a gradual shift in colour across the lanscape, starting with the recovery of grasses, mosses and young trees, then the return of wildflowers, and so on.

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