“The forest will save us if we let it”: a ranger’s precious clues

Forester, who has become a successful author by defending trees against all odds, the German Peter Wohlleben sells bestsellers, and therefore paper… but he thinks we use too much wood.

The paradox did not escape him. In The Age of Treespublished Thursday, April 7, he writes, among other things, that a priority could be to produce less toilet paper, which: “can be considered the Achilles heel of modern civilization”

And “if our forests were no longer able to supply enough raw materials to meet all our needs, I would personally opt for a new type of toilet [avec douchette et brosse] so we can use the paper to make books”he continues.

The hypothesis seems catastrophic. But the speed of climate change means the recent trend is not good, according to what he observes in his region of the Eifel, south of Cologne (west Germany).

The Age of Trees tells how his forest, where he works, experienced three extremely dry summers between 2018 and 2020. As it adapted, it became more vulnerable.

“Go back”

His credo is in the subtitle of the book: “How the forest will save us if we allow it”. According to the forestry expert, this would require us to extend the life of our trees by no longer seeing wood as an ecological material. It is more than plastic, but less than others. For supermarket bags for example, better than kraft paper, “a solution would be jute”from a herbaceous plant, according to Peter Wohlleben.

At a time when the UN climate experts (IPCC) are giving humanity three years to reverse the trend of CO2 emissions or be exposed to unsustainable warming, he refuses fatalism.

“I like the image of walking in the woods: if you are lost, you have to stop walking in the wrong direction. We slowed down our walk. And though the way back will be long, it’s not too late to turn back

It is also his personal story. Trained in forestry, he finished “feeling bad cutting trees with heavy machinery or spraying insecticides”† He became an advocate of self-management for forests.

“We think we are better”

Popularizing his science of deciduous and coniferous trees was his wife’s idea at first. “She’d been touring for about 30 years and people were always asking her if there was a book. I refused to write it for years. And one day I got into it.”

It was then, in 2007, a plea for a forest without hunters or industrialists, to develop freely as it pleases. At that time he wrote about fifteen books, sometimes on technical topics such as an indictment against the development of biomass into energy. “They sold well”, recalls Peter Wohlleben. Nothing compares to the international success of“The Secret Life of Trees”published in 2015 in German, translated into about thirty languages.

This spread, he says, has the advantage of showing the world that Europeans don’t manage their forests much better than countries like Indonesia, Brazil or those in Africa. “We impose the same abuse on nature. But we think we are better, which is not true”


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