By Mick Hogan
Definition of Community in ecological terms is as follows;
‘A group or association of populations of two or more different species occupying the same geographical area and in a particular time.’
A common definition of ‘Community’ in sociology emerges as;
‘A group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings but experienced differently by people with diverse backgrounds.’
The functions that communities perform include the maintenance of a way of life or culture, satisfaction of common needs, interests, and ambitions.
Why do we detach the ‘human species’ from what we really are? just another species that inhabits this planet. For some reason we do not see ourselves as part of the ecological definition of community.
As a species we tend see ourselves looking out at nature rather than being an intricate part of it, however our DNA is hard wired to the ecological community.
So why has this detachment occurred, this disassociation with nature?
A community in nature is not a safe benign place but an active dangerous place full of prey and predators. From the small bacteria and fungi in the soil to the top predator in the chain,
Over time as a species homo sapiens have evolved a brain, this allowed us to develop a thought process more advanced than any other species, and allowed us to expand into areas of art, religion, music, complex mathematical work, space exploration etc. So we must be the most important, special species in existence? (Vanity & egotism) Does this mean we can survive on our own? I don’t think so.
Other species have wonderful complex lives as we are now discovering, just not in the same sphere as homo sapiens. Without these other species working together as communities in life and in death, survival on this planet would be very difficult for humans.
Let’s take our wonderful neighbours trees as an example of a community that we homo sapiens very often take for granted, or even abuse.
We are now discovering that trees (for this purpose I’m including shrubs in the term tree) have amazing complex lives.
We fail to understand trees partly because they live on a different time scale than we do. Living in the slow lane, some trees are almost 10,000 yrs old. Trees breathe, travel, get sick, enjoy company, need light, and even talk to each other, similar to human beings.
Each species of tree has its own language but can also communicate with other species.
Tress can use scent as a way of sending messages e.g. warning of potential danger just as our pheromones do e.g. sweating when nervous.
Trees can use electrical signals to initiate self defence tactics against insect attacks on their leaves, a similar process to when human skin is attacked. e.g. a bee sting.
The “wood wide web” a term coined by the journal Nature, refers to the research and discoveries of Dr Suzanne Simard. Simard explains how information is exchanged by trees via the root system and the roll that fungi play in that exchange.
This symbiotic relationship not only connects the trees but also grasses. It is also that possible all plants exchange information this way. Maybe this is the original world wide web?
This type of research is in its infancy, so it remains to be seen how will it unfold. We can only guess at this stage.
Does the “wood wide web” impact us humans?
This question intrigues me. Is there a subconscious symbiotic relationship that influences our mental and physical health within the wood wide web? I feel that there is and some interesting research has been done in this area in Japan.
“Shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing) is the concept of nature therapy. Simply put, taking a walk in a forest can help relieve the stress from our over stimulated modern minds. Research suggests that the benefits of forest bathing are;
- Improvement of weakened immunity in the body.
- Reduced feelings of stress and general sense of wellbeing in the body.
- Reduction of blood pressure after only 15 min and up to 5 days after spending 1 day in the forest.
- Increased relaxation of the body due to increased activity in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Another study conducted by scientists in Pennsylvania on patients recovering from gall bladder removal found that patients with a room with a view of a natural scene recovered more quickly, were able to leave hospital sooner and used less painkillers than the patients with no natural view.
Are we as human beings not just one part of the ecological definition of a community. If so why do we remain detached? Why are we hell bent on the destruction our natural communities and possibly the destruction of self?
Why not embrace our natural communities?
By supporting and understanding our fellow species we can repair negative human impact and enable communities to flourish again.
Sources: The Hidden life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.
Shinrin-yoku by Yoshifumi Miyazaki.