In an overly simple description, it’s a fictional tale of trees and the conflict between people who love them and those who see them filled with dollar signs.
I don’t know how much of what is described about trees is true, but I suspect much of the science alluded to is fact. Like that trees can communicate. Sound crazy? I investigated using Google and learned research indicates they actually do send messages. One finding shows they use fungi in their roots to transmit distress signals to other trees about drought, disease, and insect attacks. The trees receiving these messages then alter their behavior.
For the most part, humans don’t know or don’t care about all the benefits trees provide our species. From helping with climate control and forming the source of many medicines to providing the basis for an ecosystem involving thousands of creatures and plants whose positives are not yet fully understood.
The conflict of the book arises because humans actually do know some benefits of trees. They can see them every time they look at their home or chest of drawers or fireplace or toothpick.
There’s a need for wood, and when there is a need there are dollars. Individuals or companies purchase millions of square miles of trees and then start cutting them down. Loggers become available to do the cutting and transporting to mills from which emerge planks, fireplace logs, four by eight-foot sheets—and toothpicks.
As a result, forests decline and their benefits disappear.
Some people in the story, the huggers, are shocked and risk life and limb to protest the destruction. They chain themselves to trees and cause expensive delays to cutting. The frustrated huggers sometimes resort to the violence they have sworn to eschew and destroy logging equipment by fire or bomb.
Loggers are angry and some inflict physical harm on the huggers. The loggers see the huggers as threatening their ability to provide for their families.
Eventually the monied interests, the loggers, backed by the government, win in the story.
A scary thought struck me that there’s a lot in this novel that parallels what is occurring today in our real world. I couldn’t help but feel that the overstory of the book is a recipe for our own overstory, one that is affecting all of us.
In such a comparison, one can go overboard attempting to find similarities between the fictional tree story and the all too real human story in which we live. But I find the attempt fascinating.
In our analogy, the society dealing with the trees, the huggers and loggers, is mirrored by our present day society of humanity.
Representing the huggers of the story are the poor, the disadvantaged, the historically challenged. Blacks, Hispanics, the LBGTQ+ community. immigrants. And many others who recognize the centuries old prejudices and want to do something about them or who otherwise want to save the world.
These people, like the huggers, are protesters, wanting to change the views of those who would attempt to harm the society. And sometimes they too inflict damage that takes an economic toll. Unfortunately, the damage they do, unlike that carried out by the huggers, usually doesn’t hit the ones responsible for the problems.
Who represents the loggers? Again, the analogy is shaky. One might consider them to be the Republican politicians who have been hellbent over the last few years on restricting the rights of the huggers. And also, certainly, right wing radicals, neo-Nazis, white supremacists. Like the loggers, many are convinced they are protecting their way of life by eliminating competition from people who aren’t like them.
These people are willing to physically hurt those with whom they disagree, just like the loggers of the story. And they have the guns to do it, along with automobiles for driving into crowds, and great political power. They must have poor self-images that hint at the inability to exist and thrive in a diverse world.
The book provides some hope for the huggers, but mostly the loggers win.
Who will win our real-life struggle?