In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees, discusses how trees are sophisticated organisms that live in families, support their sick neighbors, and have the capacity to make decisions and fight off predators. He has been criticized for anthropomorphizing trees, but Wohlleben, 52, maintains that to succeed in preserving our forests in a rapidly warming world, we must start to look at trees in an entirely different light.
As humans continue to urbanize — more than half of us now live in cities — it becomes critically important to restore and conserve urban trees in harmonious coexistence with nature. Many “smart” cities have been doing this for years, of course, and some of the results have been impressive.
Much of this discussion and the overarching history and legacy of city trees is covered by author and historian Jill Jonnes in her recently published Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape (Viking).
“Nature’s largest and longest-lived creations, trees play an extraordinarily important role in our cityscapes, living landmarks that define space, cool the air, soothe our psyches, and connect us to nature and our past,” Jonnes writes on her website. “Today, four-fifths of Americans live in or near cities, surrounded by millions of trees, urban forests containing hundreds of species. Despite the ubiquity and familiarity of those trees, mostof us take them for granted and know little of their specific natural history or civic virtues.”