We hadn’t planned to stop running or abandon our addiction to over-consumption and the over-exploitation of our planet’s resources. We thought we had just found a more efficient way to be human. We didn’t have any more space for agriculture, or the time to eat and keep on feeding an ever-growing population. Our industries needed more space to expand, and we needed a more-efficient-kind of human. A human being that wouldn’t have to depend on meals and other species to survive. A human being that could keep on working as long as the sun was up, harvesting nutrients directly from the soil.
It was a ludicrous idea, and yet we had seen the perfect example in the efficiency of trees. Trees basked under the sun, and their roots took nourishment from the land, all the while producing the oxygen that kept them and everyone else alive. So, we thought that, like the trees, we could work at all hours, never pausing. Our economy would flourish, as we pushed every other living being to the brink of extinction. If we were trees, producing the oxygen we needed to live, we wouldn’t need trees to occupy the mountainsides we wanted to mine. If the sun and the soil gave us nourishment, we wouldn’t need to preserve the ecosystems for all the other living beings. We just needed some clean water to keep us afloat, and science had no limits, or so we thought.
So, this is how we came to be, the human trees, a new species of human beings. We looked more or less the same, with just some green hair and slightly greener skin, a few leaves and branches protruding from our limbs. Our feet could grow roots, whenever we wanted to eat, but we could still walk, and do everything humans always did. For a while, we just continued the same, our attention focused on our computers, answering our mountains of emails. But slowly, things started to change, for our perception of the world had changed.
We had planned on running faster and faster, our bodies producing what we consumed. Yet, as we sat behind our screens, our backs turned to the sun, our feet stuck in the dirt, we started realizing that that there was something missing. The world wasn’t as far away as it had always been. The sun tugged at our hearts, calling for our attention, while the land wasn’t as dead as we had always believed it to be. A multitude of living beings touched our roots, telling us stories, tickling our feet.
That was when we abandoned the screens.
We don’t remember when it exactly happened, when we went from thinking as I to becoming a We. We just know that one day we were no longer typing on our keyboards, or watching reels in our living rooms, staring at our phones’ screens. We all stepped outside our houses’ confines, striding through what was left of our struggling countryside. We planted our feet into the ground, extending our limbs and branches to the sun, listening to the sound of the water that traveled our land. It was as if the world had stopped, and yet we had never traveled faster before. A myriad of possibilities and stories flooded our consciousness, connecting us to the world and to each other. All barriers had fallen, borders collapsed. We and the planet had become one.
We went back to our houses, at first, mostly out of habit. But that, too, slowly faded away. We didn’t want to stay contained within the four walls of our previous lives. How lonely that felt now that we knew what it meant to be together, what it meant to be alive. We smiled when we saw each other, but we also smiled at the sun, at the water, at the few species of birds that still roamed our skies. We smiled at the last still standing trees, at the grass blades, at the flowers and at all the beings that our eyes couldn’t see, but that our roots had befriended. We think it was those warm smiles that convinced the human beings that hadn’t wanted to embrace the “tree life.” No human had ever seen another human smile like that or talk about that deep connection with the land that fulfilled every possible desire. No human had ever known what it meant to be friends like that with each other, with Planet Earth.
We increased in number, and we started taking over. It wasn’t really a fight because no one wanted to fight. We all wanted to be trees. We all wanted to be human trees. So, we abandoned our industries, our roads of concrete, our fast-moving cars, and all the flying machines. Never before had we so wanted to stand on our own two feet. Screens had lost meaning, and our stories had changed. Society, as we saw it, had changed.
We were a We, and as a We, we all needed a space where to live. We all needed water, sun, air, birds, fungi and all the other living beings to exist. We needed each other, and we were each other, one gigantic being in a web of interconnected life. And that’s where it all begins, the real history of us as humans, the human trees. This is when we discovered what it meant to be alive, feeding and sharing into the infinite tapestry of interdependent life.
Now the world is different, after decades of work to undo the destruction we had caused. The scars our previous selves had left on the land were deep, but the land heals, and we healed with the land. So many species came back, some so small we hadn’t even known they were going extinct right underneath our feet. Yet, as the forests grew, and the dams fell away, the sky and the waters were repopulated with life. We watched it all return, learning new stories, but also learning stories as old as the earth. And as our roots sank deeper into the soil, we fully understood what it really meant to be a tree.
The human beings we had been, with our extravagant ideas of what science could achieve, had never understood what it would really signify for us to become trees. They hadn’t understood, and we’re glad. In our ignorance and hubris, we found a way back to life. We found a way back to the planet we were destroying.
When we became trees, we left behind I and we became We.