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The environment, a fruitful idea: a common stock, branches and complex ties

Perhaps you thought of the cityscape versus nature, with trees along the streets and in the parks contrasting with the linearity of buildings.

Does this blossoming of imagined trees put you in mind of the ecology? The tap-tap-tap of the woodpecker as he listens and digs for the insects in the bark, the screech-owl in the hollow of a tree, leaves as food for caterpillars, beavers chewing away, lichens growing on an old stump: all these illustrate symbiosis. A tree can be seen as a living being that breathes as we do, and unlike us, produces photosynthesis. It is part of an ecosystem, a link in the food chain, whether in a dense forest or a lightly wooded landscape. A wood is a source of bio-diversity. Dead trees and dead leaves illustrate the life cycle: decomposition and back into the earth, from which all living things spring.

Perhaps the word ‘tree’ has also brought to mind the idea of using trees. Ecological uses include planting trees to prevent soil erosion and protect shores and water quality, to act as wind breaks, to keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter.

Or you may have visualized more scientific uses: trees and woodland as carbon reservoirs to counteract climate change; plants and trees as sources of medication, such as the Western Yew (Taxus brevifolia), which gives us the chemotherapy drug Taxol.

Are your images rooted in the tradition of industrial and economic uses? Factory-made desks, cabinets and chairs, the lumber dispute with the United States, wood fibre for the pulp and paper industry, the posts carrying the power lines for your Internet connection, the wooden beams in the walls of the room where you are reading this text, plants as the original sources of coal, petroleum and tar sands.

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