... calling upon us to rediscover our relationship with nature.
What would fairy tales be without forests? Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White ... in these and many other fairy tales, the protagonist ventures forth into the forest. The forest is a dark world full of secrets. The path inward is seldom easy, but the forest promises hope that a solution can be found to the worries and needs of our everyday lives. When things have gone out of balance, the all-encompassing power of nature, symbolized by the forest, can bring them back into a natural rhythm.
Forests are enjoyed as places for retreat and recuperation by urban dwellers in particular where the body can feel at peace while the senses are stimulated by sounds, smells and rhythms that have nearly become foreign to us in our busy lives. Our relationship with forests is an ambivalent one however, as apparent in the problems of fires and deforestation in Brazil and other places where some 40 football fields of tropical rainforest are cleared every minute, and the controversy over Germany’s Hambacher Forest. The forest has become a battlefield.
The economic usage of wood as a natural resource has given man houses and homes to live in, but deforestation has created a different habitat amidst the forest – the clearing, the growth of which marks our constant further distancing away from our original home. Just try to imagine Hansel and Gretel in a forest with commercial logging going on.
Forests today are overwhelmed by the demands placed upon them by man, who on the one hand needs them to protect both the climate by storing carbon and the diversity of plant and animal species, but on the other looks to them to yield vast amounts of wood for use as a raw material. In the tropics 2,101 square kilometers of forest disappear every year.
Nature is more than a grab-bag of resources. The quantification of nature and the pressure we exert on it to constantly increase yields has created an artificial separation between us and our environment. This leaves us with feelings of guilt and loss, and a longing for a return to nature.
Looking at the challenges we face, philosopher and mathematician Charles Eisenstein has commented:
“Healing our world doesn’t mean first reducing CO2. We have to heal our relationship with nature.”
Prominent German sociologist Hartmut Rosa has used the term “resonance” to describe a healthy kind of relationship with our world. Resonance is a kind of inner echo that arises when we are touched and feel moved by something when interacting with a person, building or landscape. And money can’t buy moments of resonance, nor can you just go out and get one whenever you want. So the logic of resonance runs contrary to the nature-destroying logic of insatiable demand.
Luckily, forests can grow back if proper reforestation is conducted. Which brings us to the connection between the second candle of Advent and thoughts of strengthening our relationship with nature – as exemplified in The Generation Forest project. This project was created with the aim of bringing human needs into alignment with the environment and cycles of nature. The forest management concept in place ensures that there is no clearing of entire plantations, employing instead systematic methods for cultivating younger and tending older trees in parallel, allowing trees of differing generations to enhance forest health, including as a habitat.
It feels great now being part of a cooperative that invests its money in a meaningful, sustainable solution, and we are really excited about how “our forest” will continue to grow throughout the future. We believe that the forest should be seen as more than just a place to derive natural resources, and we suggest that people take time to really drink in the forest experience, on their next Sunday afternoon walk perhaps. You’ll find it beneficial on your next walk in the forest to make the effort to renew your relationship with nature by allowing yourself to “resonate with it” by feeling, hearing, smelling and breathing it in–re-discovering how it has always been a part of us, and we a part of it.
The STURM und DRANG team
wishes you a pleasant, future-focused Second Advent.