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Looking at Trees: This book wants you to think about forestry

Time spent among trees is ever more widely understood to be time spent reducing stress, clearing one’s mind and extending one’s life.

Nature enthusiasts say “forest bathing”, as walking in the woods has become known in some circles, ought to be prescribed on the NHS in light of the evidence that it carries great health benefits.

Outside of forests, trees prove immeasurably valuable in towns and cities, supporting the respiration of urban residents while interrupting often tedious views of bricks and tarmac (there’s rather more that could be said in consideration of the other animals that make use of trees in these environments).

A cluster of palm trees at Morocco’s Tanseest Oasis

(M’hammed Kilito)

A tree along West 93rd Street in New York City

(Sue Bailey)

Take the case of a jogger in New York who recorded his daily routes on his phone for months. On review he noticed that he had unconsciously navigated Manhattan’s Upper East Side by its tree-lined streets, neglecting those less green, as if answering some imperceptible call of nature.

Scientists found that the therapeutic qualities of trees derive, at least in part, from the plants’ release of immune system-boosting chemicals called phytoncides – it may sound like a fanciful conclusion but it persuaded Japanese doctors to start prescribing forest baths as a means of preventative healthcare.

The border between Piatra Craiului National Park and the Barsa Hunting Area in Romania

(Nicholas J R White)

(Sabine Bungert and Stefan Dolfen)

People less concerned with the chemical reasoning might be satisfied by the argument that it’s just nice to look at trees. That is the case Sophie Howarth puts forward in her new book, Looking at Trees, published by Hoxton Mini Press, which compiles more than 100 delightful pictures of trees from photographers all over the world.

Juniperus chinensis (Hollywood juniper) in California

(Marc Alcock)

Halfway Gardens in Gauteng, South Africa

(Robert Voit)

Amid outstanding imagery of some of the plant world’s most beautiful offerings, Howarth, whose earlier book Street Photography Now celebrated the built environment, encourages readers to stop and appreciate the trees in their own lives.

“Some of us are fortunate enough to live near forests or woodlands, and most of us live within walking distance of at least a few trees, but how often do we really look closely at them?,” she writes.

A tree in Oakland, Mather Street at Broadway, California

(Daniel Ballesteros)

Hoh Rainforest in Washington state, US

(Anna Beeke)

“It’s a curious thing to walk past living, breathing lifeforms, sometimes over 100ft tall, and barely even notice them, yet we do it almost every day.”

Outcry over the recent felling of a beloved, ancient tree – the Sycamore Gap in Northumberland – belied a sensitivity in the public mind that is more commonly disturbed by crimes against humans or animals.

(Christoph Franke)

Steward Community Woodland, Devon

(David Spero)

Howarth would see nothing strange in this attachment to what are, undeniably, life-givers. The opening paragraphs of her book examine the rapidly increasing relative value of trees to society as the state of the environment deteriorates.

The cover of Sophie Howarth’s ‘Looking at Trees’

(Hoxton Mini Press)

“If to be crazy about someone is to be in love with them, and to be crazy about something is to be very enthusiastic about it, shouldn’t we all be crazy about trees?

“The word crazy is of course also synonymous with insanity, but sanity is an increasingly unstable concept in a world that’s hurtling towards ecological self-destruction.”

‘Looking at Trees’ by Sophie Howarth is published by Hoxton Mini Press

#Trees #book #forestry

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