This intriguing and pertinent philosophical question, asked in a song by well-know Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn is being answered by a resounding "YES!" in Diana Beresford-Kroeger's highly edifying, detailed and accessible exploration on the life of trees, plants and creatures in the global forests of planet Earth. The author's message in her work, and in this book, is that it is vital for nature's survival as a healthy environment for us and the following generations is to listen and learn. We are called to get engaged in the tasks to help preserve and restore the forests with all their diversity of plants and trees and cohabitating creatures, from insects to bees to birds, from fungi to lichens and more. In forty short chapters, the author takes us by the hand and guides us through different forests, highlighting and explaining what we should know about them, from a biological, ethno-cultural, medicinal and spiritual and any other possible perspective.
Among the many "Wow"! moments when reading the book, I was particular fascinated by everything to do with communication by trees and plants in the forest. It seems that human beings are at a great disadvantage, because most of us cannot hear these "infrasounds", sense the aerosols and understand the low waves of chemicals moving under the forest floor. Through these communication means, trees attract not only the necessary pollinators or emit medicinal aerosols necessary for their and the surrounding flora's health, they can create sound or chemical reactions that are warning signals if a predator is approaching that could endanger the tree's well-being. I had heard about the ability of certain acacia trees to suddenly change the "flavour" of their leaves so that animals would stop eating them. And, research has found, this flavour change happens not only in the affected tree but immediately in all close standing trees, suggesting some form of communication. Beresford-Kroeger explains these and other phenomena in very convincing ways.
The author, a botanist and medical biochemist is a recognized expert on the medicinal, environmental and nutritional properties of trees, shares in this brief comprehensive book her knowledge and wisdom that encompasses all creatures in the forests and their interrelationships. She has studied traditional societies, from First Nations in Canada to many others around the world and recorded their, often oral, knowledge of the medicinal properties of trees and plants. It is a cross-genre kind of book, rich in scientific detail as well as filled with story telling and spiritual meaning. At times, the author resorts to anthromorphizing that I personally don't find totally convincing. Still, ideally, it is a book to be kept in a prominent place and consulted regularly rather than read in one go and filed away. It is a reference guide to the living world of the Global Forests. I would have preferred a comprehensive index and glossary to assist in a regular and on-going consulting of the incredible depth and diversity of information. The reference reading list is helpful but could also have been expanded. [Friederike Knabe]