Marie Claire Italy, 22 August 2019
The Best Lesson in Politics is Given to us by a Forest, by Emanuele Coccia.
Our civilization is the fruit of enormous removal. It is inexplicable, but we continue to consider ourselves closer to animals than to forests, when it was life in the trees that imposed the opposable thumb that led to the evolution of our species. It is to remain faithful to gardens and some fruit trees that we have discovered sedentary life and invented the city : a relationship to space much closer to the plant world than that of the majority of animals.
The forests have taught us the meaning of a time that is not erased by death and that is a collective fact and not an individual one . Despite this, for centuries we have built entirely mineral cities, made of stone, sand, glass and metal, rejecting all that was living outside. The forest (from the Latin foris , to the outside) was the result of this voluntary exile. Above all, trees and forests have taught us and made possible what we are most proud of: technology.
We often talk about Paleolithic and Neolithic and we measure the origins of the technique starting from the mineral manipulation findings that we can find. But before working the stone we manipulated and modified the body of the forests: the wood . The fact that such artifacts are not preserved does not prove their non-existence. The desire to reduce everything to stone, to forget that the forest is at the origin of our bodies, of cities, of technology, is a form of stupid pride. It is easier to delude ourselves that we are alone in front of an infinitely appropriable world.
Without them we could not live. But we forget it, in the name of a story that enhances the stones.
Man’s mineral passion is a war directed at the plant world. A forest, in effect, is the exact opposite of the stone: a tree, a plant, is nothing but sunlight caught and stored in the mineral body of the Earth. The man instead looks like the great Medusa of the planet: he who transforms living spaces into mineral spaces. And the removal of the forest for the benefit of the stone is not without consequences and man’s mineral fury can only lead to the desertification of the planet.
To stop the desert, to overcome the obsession of our civilization it is necessary to return to the forests . They teach us, for example, that life is not built through the war of all against all, nor through universal competition but only through a symbiosis.Plants teach us that every living being lives and is in the lives of others. It is never a simple mechanism of energy consumption and dissipation, it is also and above all its multiplication. The forest is the beginning of a new policy that could teach us to think collectively. Unlike what we have thought for centuries, plants are not forms of life without conscience, but they think, they feel, they are conscious by doing without the brain and the sense organs.
They do it in a much more refined, complex and precise way than an animal can. And above all they collectively think much more accurately than men can do. In Il whisper of the world , the novel by the writer Richard Powers, which won him the Pulitzer Prize 2019, the author states that the plant world is conscious, albeit in a different way from man: « The plants are stubborn and skilled creatures and the looking for something, just like people ” . It thus contributes to the debate that was also raised in Italy by the studies of Stefano Mancuso, director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (and author of The Incredible Journey of Plants andThe nation of plants ), and in the United States by Anthony Trewavas, a biologist known for his research in the field of plant physiology and plant behavior. Scientists and thinkers have confronted us with a paradox: to understand what consciousness is, it is not necessary to study the brain (human or animal) but to observe a tree. The forest is much more important than neuroscience.
The woods are the non-human equivalent of the digital network. They think collectively.
It does not mean returning to the past and regretting a premodern state. On the contrary, it is necessary to think of the city as a forest fact, and the forest is a place where trees coexist and think together, as an urban fact. This is what two Italian architects, Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi, had already suggested in the Sixties: instead of studying the built, the concrete, the stones, this couple spent more than twenty years studying trees as architectural realities. Building, being an architect means dealing with forests, to reach the conclusion that cities are the institutions that associate men with trees.
In the next thirty years the majority of the world population will live in a handful of megalopolises, which will produce by themselves the majority of global GDP. They will also be poles of greater energy consumption. The political task that awaits us cannot be just to preserve the existing forests . These megalopolis must be transformed into new forests. Urban and inhabited forests, but forests.
But a physical revolution is also necessary: trees must be planted everywhere . It is necessary to restore light to the mineral body of the cities. The number of trees should exceed the number of inhabitants and each citizen should see the care of at least two trees to be legally responsible for. These forests will be the non-human counterpart of the digital network: a large biological network that pushes the desert away that the spell of the stones has forced us to spread everywhere. If we overcome this challenge, in the future world there will be no opposition between urban and countryside, modern and rural. There will only be forests: inhabited urban forests, food-grade agricultural forests, forests not inhabited by men.
The opening photo is of photos of Ellie Davies of the Stars series , aimed at visualizing the links between the cosmos and Nature, superimposing photos of galaxies and planets on those of woods and forests during the night. Trees as symbols of a plant kingdom that contains the breath of the world. “There is nothing more photogenic than Nature,” explains the English photographer, “but people merely observe it with a look that I call” tourist “. While it is powerful, strong and sometimes even mysterious and esoteric ».