City systems can learn from forest systems
As the barked portfolio of images grew my awareness of the similarities between ancient forests and intelligent, 21st century cities grew with it. For example, there is remarkable, new research that explains how forests are dynamic, intelligent systems. Their naturally sustainable ecosystems are models that future cities can learn from and emulate (if we want to survive at projected global population levels that is).
Let me explain. Canadian researcher Suzanne Simard proved trees communicate and support one another. Her work reveals that rather than being passive, independent objects, trees are dynamic members of complex communities. Trees talk to one another. The similarities to human communities are striking to someone with urban design experience. Forester Peter Wohlleben is also studying the barely visible complexity of trees. His book, The Hidden Life of Trees, is an exposition on the ways trees and forests have human-like characteristics. Trees create supportive social networks just like we do. They protect one-another. They respect their elders too. Wohlleben’s book is a compelling way to learn about the subject through a natural history lens.
Indigenous communities knew sustainability
The amount of new research on the topic is overwhelming, but one of the most surprising themes emerging from the human-forest relationship is that pre-Columbus North American communities had an operational knowledge of sustainable forest systems that surpasses ours. In his book, 1491, Charles C. Mann outlines how the inhabitants of America had developed sustainable ways to shape forests and landscapes for their benefit. In effect, the landscape Europeans took as natural when they landed in the Americas was anything but. 1491 is an important book for designers because it delineates how people can terraform a sustainable natural world.
The barked project’s mission is to protect and learn from the oldest, biggest, and most majestic trees that remain across the globe. If we can raise awareness about the importance of trees by making them visible as unique individuals rather than commodities then our work will be a success. We invite you to join us in the effort.