HELP THOSE IN NEED
Trees deeply understand the importance of caring for their neighbors in need. Simard realized, when studying the old-growth forest ecosystem, that trees will altruistically lend their resources to other, weaker trees, even at their own expense. For example, older, more established trees will send carbon and water to nearby seedlings (baby trees) to help them survive, even if they’re a different species. According to The New York Times, her study found that seedlings that were connected to the Mycorrhizal Network were 26% more likely to survive that those that weren’t.
Forests understand that a society is only as strong as its weakest link. By supporting those in need, it ultimately elevates the health of the forest as a whole, thus benefiting the generous trees in the end. Similarly, when nations lend resources and opportunities to those that need it – including the sick, elderly and those with little economic power, among others – it has been proven to deeply benefit the society. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that raising wages for low-income workers and providing them with economic opportunities is one of the best ways to raise a country’s GDP. By helping others we can help the whole, making the world a better place for people of all backgrounds.
COOPERATION IS KEY
Traditionally, evolution has taught us that, in order for a species to succeed and reproduce, it’s a game of “survival of the fittest.” Rugged individualism is readily preached in our society, especially in the Capitalist haven of the United States. Suzanne Simard, however, discovered that this philosophy might not paint the whole picture. In fact, she found that cooperation between species is equally as important as competition for survival, and subscribing solely to the “every man for himself” attitude is not evolutionarily helpful. The relationship between Birch trees and Douglas Firs demonstrates this notion beautifully. In one study, Simard found that Douglas Fir trees received carbon reserves from Deciduous Birch in the summer when they were mainly in the shade. In the fall, when the Birch trees lost their leaves, Douglas Fir sent over their carbon reserves in return. According to The New York Times, this complex relationship has been deemed a “friendship” by some scientists in the field.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives and live on an island of our own desires. But trees teach us the importance of working together and building trusting relationships for long-term success. That best friend you’ve had since the 6th grade? That’s the type of relationship that keeps you going and supports you in our times of need. Having deep connections with others is essential to living not just a prosperous life, but a joyful one.