Druidry and cutting down trees

It may be as a Druid that your first instinct is to protect trees no matter what. It’s a good instinct, (I would think that, because I do feel it) but at the same time, it helps to understand the historical relationships between people, trees and the landscape.

First up, wood is an amazing material. It is sustainable to use so long as we take only what we need and plant three trees for every tree we cut down. It’s also sustainable to coppice and pollard. Wood is not actually one material, different trees have different properties – alder for example resists water. Venice was built on alder. Wood is durable, beautiful, and effective.

Secondly, if the land has a history of human wood work over thousands of years, then continuing isn’t a bad idea. There are woodland flowers that don’t show up unless patches of woodland are cleared. Small scale, rotational tree coppicing results in a wealth of other wildlife being able to return. Diversity of plants increases insect populations which in turn feed birds and bats… Letting the light in will also help slower growing trees like oaks get started.

What doesn’t work is industrial scale logging. It doesn’t work to cut everything over a large area, especially if you follow through by not even replanting. It doesn’t work to take rare hardwoods out of rainforests, or to put vast monocultures of pine into places pine doesn’t normally grow.

If we are to use wood as a sustainable resource, we have to do it while maintaining the health of the overall wood. In the UK, that can mean radical cutting to get rid of invasive non-native plants. I’ve seen what rhododendron does when left unchecked. All you get is rhododendrons and all other native flora and fauna disappears. Pine plantations tend to be nearly as sterile. A wood is not just a bunch of very tall plants, it is an entire eco system.

Small scale wood cutting undertaken by people who keep working responsibly with the same wood over many years gets beautiful results. People who know the wood, and care about it, who take no more than the wood can afford to let them have. People who go in and drag wood out, or work with ponies rather than bringing in heavy machinery. People who leave their wood healthy and full of life. It can be done. I’ve seen it done in many places and read about it in even more.

If an environment has never been messed with by humans, then we should leave it alone and not exploit it. However, if an environment has been worked with by humans for thousands of years, it may have evolved around us. That’s true for many woods, for meadows and for the kind of moorland rich in orchids and wildflowers. It isn’t true for the moorlands where the heather is burned off for grouse, it isn’t true of agri-business and giant monocultures, it isn’t true of deforestation. But, working with wood need not mean deforestation.

We can be participants in the natural world. We can work with nature without exploiting it.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “Druidry and cutting down trees

  • Ravensare

    Great post – my take on nature is very similar to yours, in that as humans we are not separate from nature at all. And in nature, everything is connected and interacts. There is a huge difference between working with forests and exploiting them. Wood is a fabulous material, but we have to make sure that the way we source it is respectful and sustainable.

  • janeycolbourne

    Absolutely. This is the way forward—to remember we are a part of nature and participate in a healthy, balanced way, rather than thinking we are separate and therefore must either avoid any interaction with or impact upon the rest of nature, or that we are somehow above the natural law and balance of ecosystems and can therefore plunder ‘resources’. Both of these anthropocentric approaches are two sides of the same coin—apparently opposite actions from the same outlook but both extreme, unrealistic and unsustainable.

  • BART Station Bard

    Reblogged this on BART Station Bard and commented:
    Exactly! I give tours of a recently rebuilt schooner. Explaining the process gives me a chance to explain the importance of redo resting and caring for what we have. We couldn’t go back to the forests the boat was built from to get the wood, after all.

  • robinpoet8

    we live in times when we have pushed exploitation of nature to its complete extreme, it is quite visible now to see the impacts of this in monocultures where only one thing grows, and so as we do this exploitation increases as intensely in the human sphere. Creativity in nature and humans is smothered, and thereof sickness takes over until finally the monocultures are purged out and real diversity can return to its central place weaving healthy communities of co-existing life back together. In little corners undisturbed mingling plants dream of covering the waste land!

  • eberis

    we’re weird about urban ecology and former failure to recycle in a sense of the request of recycling at a community being picked up at the city sending police who had to investigate a person not at home property noted as a work at home activist .. You might relate this to ecoPagan community .. Thanks . Season’s Greetings .

  • lornasmithers

    I’ve been involved in a local coppicing project helping folks get wood for their wood burners. It’s in a woodland planted 40 years ago on top of an old landfill and (humans say) will benefit from the thinning out. I think this kind of cutting down trees is ok but agree that large scale commercial logging is devastating.

    • Nimue Brown

      Sounds wonderful Lorna. You’ll get wildflowers, regrowth, more insects, and firewood, and by the sounds of it, community as well. One of the problems with trees all planted at the same time is that they all die at the same time without having created spaces for new trees, so, thinning is good. it’s replacing what the aurochs would have done, i tend to think.

  • Ailanthus Altissima

    Oh wow, first that article you wrote on trans issues and now this! You make me a happy tree 🙂

    I’m loving your whole blog so far! I’m of the mind that everything has a consciousness of sorts and trees are the kindest, most giving, and least consuming organisms that have such consciousness. Thank you for doing your part to protect them!

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