The Incredible in the Everyday, and How Trees Talk to Each Other

Martes, 1 de Noviembre de 2016

Read our November article.

It’s easy to forget how many incredible things we’re surrounded by. I took a walk through Barcelona not long ago, on a day which began with a storm and ended in one of the most glorious sunsets I’ve ever seen. The sky that evening was a tapestry of salmon pink and vibrant yellow, shifting slowly and imperceptibly into deep violet and blood orange tones before it finally settled on lustrous dark blue night.

Last weekend I ate scallops and swam in the sea on the Maresme Coast; I finished a classic science fiction novel from 1965 and watched the 20th series of a TV show I’ve loved since I was 12, which is just as good as ever. All of these things: amazing. Do you know what else is amazing? Aeroplanes. Just aeroplanes in general. Do you ever contemplate, sometimes: we human beings can get into enormous flying machines and cross half the planet in one trip? And do you ever think: that’s unreal? (Don’t even get me started on space travel.)

Buildings, too. And I’m not talking about the Empire State or St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Sagrada Familia - though each of these are awesome, to say the least. Skyscrapers, obviously, are amazing. How do they stay upright? How are they so tall? But no: I mean the average building in a city. The building I live in is amazing. It’s just a regular building, on a busy road. The window-frames rattle sometimes if a particularly large lorry rolls by. But all the pipes and cables and means of supplying each flat with water and electricity; the way in which its walls and windows constitute living spaces for couples and families… It’s all pretty great, if you ask me.

Obviously I’m exaggerating a little here. But not much. Back to nature, though, and here’s something truly amazing, that a friend of mine got me thinking about recently: the fact that trees talk to each other.

Seriously. That film Avatar from 2009 - the highest-grossing film of all time, by the way - depicted a world of flora and fauna and nine-foot blue humanoids that is entirely connected: a living, breathing ecosystem. The groundbreaking run by Alan Moore on the DC comic Swamp Thing imagined the world’s forests, swamps and natural life as an interconnected entity named ‘the Green’. The incredible thing is that both of these works of fiction are not far from the truth of the matter, which is that trees on our planet communicate to each other through underground networks of fungi: nature has its own internet, and it works beautifully.

Through this connection, enabled by threads known as mycelium, the roots of trees and plants pass and share information and even nutrients; the fungal network is provided with food (in the form of carbohydrates) by the roots, and the roots are aided in their water intake by the fungi. Sometimes smaller, younger - or sickly - trees will be provided carbon via the network - the older, sturdier trees effectively helping them to prosper, while the connection of plants and fungus means that both parties maintain more effective immune systems.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Is that not astounding? That not only are plants such as these connected, but that they help each other and share resources via a “natural internet?” At least to me, it is spectacular - and what’s even more confounding is that this is not really news. I mentioned it to my father (a biologist) the other day, and apparently scientists have been discussing and researching these networks for many years. (Paul Stamets, the most visible of these mycologists, gave a well-known TED talk entitled ‘Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World’.)

My point is that life always has the power to amaze. Whether that’s in a gorgeous sunset, an insanely vivid dream, by simply thinking about all that humans have achieved - or the fact that trees talk to each other (!) - there’s wonder in the everyday, and that’s something that should never be taken for granted.

Profesores nativos titulados Exámenes oficiales Prestigioso método educativo


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