Our many relationships with trees represent excellent examples of the various ways in which we are linked to our environment.
Let’s think about the essence of trees. Close your eyes and let the word ‘tree’ fill your mind.
What do you see? One or several trees? A forest or a wooded landscape? Are you alone, with your family, among friends? Do work, free time or studies come into the picture? Social or ecological issues?
The pictures that spring up in your mind may relate to trees in your own life story: a tree planted to celebrate your birth, a swing hanging from a bough, a log cabin or tree house, climbing a tree branch by branch, playing in the fallen leaves in autumn, the cool shade under the trees in high summer, the trunk you leaned against for a rest, the breeze rustling through the leaves, a walk in the woods, outdoor exercise, collecting dead wood for kindling – which is one thing for a camper in North America and quite another for a woman in the Sahel, who must walk for miles to find the vital fuel to cook what little food she has.
The idea that humans should occupy a dominant place within the natural order - that their rightful role is to subdue other living beings - is common within Judeo-Christian beliefs and much of traditional Western thought. The environmental crisis has provoked debate about such assumptions, both within faith-based communities and the broader culture.