The older we get the wiser, the slower, the weaker, the stronger, the grumpier, the curiouser?
These are loaded questions that can be answered multiple ways. Let’s take the curious option. For it’s the one that might produce the most fulfilling results.
Curiosity can get us into trouble or out of trouble, depending on our approach. Applied to building knowledge it can hardly be a bad thing. Keeping the brain active is what we’re encouraged to do on a daily basis. So this story is one that while written for young people could also apply to us older aged souls.
When it comes to pondering our place in the world and more particularly our concern for the wellbeing of Munibung Hill, curiosity can help us get a sense of perspective as to what’s important and what’s not. What we need to protect and conserve. What we are reliant on for our health and sense of place. There’s no doubt that keeping a sense of balance goes a long way in this case. Sadly there ‘s been a lot of events at Munibung Hill over the years that have resulted in things getting somewhat our of whack, one of them being the land clearing and with the removal of livestock to keep the invasive species eaten down, with no immediate replacement, non-native species have gained the upper hand in some parts.
If we know where we’ve come from and what our lineage is perhaps we can work to preserve those aspects of the ancient past that we rely on in the present. This story is about the history of trees. Where did they come from? Not only trees, ferns, cycads, when did they come along?
When we know the answers to these questions we can relate them to the living examples of these same or similar species that grow at Munibung Hill. We can get a sense of how long their ancestors have been passing on the stories to their children and grand children. This might sound a bit sentimental but there is strong evidence that trees live in family groups, talk with each other on what is known as the Wood Wide Web and have been able to withstand many geological events that we humans would struggle to survive in. Can You Hear the Trees Talking, provides examples of how the language of trees while obviously completely different to human language, none the less serves the purpose of trees being in touch with each other. Our claim of being smarter than other species has not served us well, as scientists are now discovering. Thank goodness for these curious people who have not been blinded by the superiority complex that many humans have, when it comes to our place within the web of life.
Trees came into existence well over 300 MYBP. In this story: Curious Kids: Where did trees come from? (The Conversation, 26 April 2018) Greg Jordan, Associate Professor, University of Tasmania and Matilda Brown, PhD, University of Tasmania, explain the origins of life that we need to treasure for their inherent qualities. We could have said values, but that might also mean financial values, which it’s true they have, but there is so much more that needs to be valued.
“The very first plants on land were tiny. This was a very long time ago, about 470 million years ago. Then around 350 million years ago, many different kinds of small plants started evolving into trees. These made the first great forests of the world,” write Jordan and Brown.
When walking at Munibung Hill consider who we are walking with besides our human family and friends. We are in the presence of beings that have experienced so much evolutionary activity, that provide homes for so many other species. that, like us, now rely on them. They are connected underground by mycorrhizal fungi networks that extend many metres, perhaps kilometres out into the forest. These fungi are even older. Neither plant nor animal, and without a brain, they can think and communicate in ways that we are still trying to fathom out. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake contains some of the science behind how fungi live and why they are so much more important than we have given them credit for. One thing leads to another and before we know it we realise that we are part of this whole entangled web of life.
“We are so glad you are interested in trees. We really need to look after our trees because they help make clean air for us to breathe. Without trees, humans would be in a lot of trouble,” says Brown.
Curiosity will stand us in good stead as we continue to live and learn and pass on the stories of our living plant ancestors. Join the conversation. Be a curious kid again.
Hello, curious kids! If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, ask an adult to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure they include your name, age (and, if you want to, which city you live in). All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!