Why Can’t Humans Be More Like Elephants or Trees?

by on June 22, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Colleen O’Connor

Historians often use memorable contemporary events to better tell stories that define an age.

For example; to better explain the 1950s, a catchy tune from the popular musical, My Fair Lady, suffices.  Sung by Rex Harrison, “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” says it all.

The lyrics illicit some disbelief in this century, but many still recall that catchy tune. The stage play, recordings, musical and multiple Oscar wins, generated massive box office numbers.

This century, however, the song is often described simply as a “Hymn to Him.”  Different times. Different takes.

Abundant examples of war, propaganda, feel-good dances, political and dystopian movies, and individual acts of bravery, also exist as attempts to explain sometimes bewildering, sometimes inexplicable times.

But, today’s example, of a big event that seems to capture the moment, is the current 300-mile “walk about” of 15 elephants and three calves that escaped from their nature reserve in the Yunnan province to wander about China.

They are still roaming through “fields, villages and cities,” causing millions of dollars in damage, and generating a global following of millions of fans on Internet, YouTube, and drone screens.

Indeed, they have become this year’s rock stars for animal rights, climate change, and environmental protections.

Even the Chinese government has sanctioned bodyguard protection for these wanderers as they devour crops, climb over hills, amble down streets and bathe in the mud.  All the while protecting one other.

No one seems to understand why they left their protected game reserve and wandered off.

Are they following a wayward leader or a long-ago memory of better times?

Most nature lovers acknowledge the gentle, quiet footsteps of these huge animals, as well as their maternal instincts; impressive memories (which may have led this herd to greener pastures); and their grieving behavior; especially after the death of a matriarch.


Their kindness to “their kind” is legendary.

So, too, with trees in the forest.

Now enthusiastically dubbed, the “plant equivalent of elephants” in this time of climate fragility, many are asking, “Why Can’t Humans Be More Like Trees?’

The behavior of trees in the forest is admirable, on so many heretofore, unknown, levels.  They literally, “talk to each other;” even over vast distances. They feel, they communicate, and they share.

Several books, Ted Talks, and sophisticated research papers, find still more evidence for asking just that “Why” question.

Seriously, trees exhibit numerous traits worth admiring.

As German forester, Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) and Canadian Professor, Suzanne Simard, (Ted Talks) both discovered, trees share food and communicate when in need.  From their roots up to the crown.


According to both authors, this below ground activity “has been mapped, traced, monitored, and coaxed to reveal the beautiful structures and finely adapted languages of the forest network.”

“We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping (and saving) future generations.  In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest.”

It is something of a now visible telepathy system with (thanks to modern science’s microscopic and genetic tools) positive results.  The healthy trees share resources— root to root — with their ailing neighbors.

They also emit above-ground defensive scents to warn other trees of any predators approaching.

“If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand.  As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they ‘smell’ it and are warned of the danger.  Even before the giraffe reaches them, they being producing toxic chemicals.”

Thus, protecting their neighbors.

All ecosystems have life and death cycles.  Some longer and gentler than others.  Some crueler and shorter.

So, why can’t humans be more like a tree?  Or an elephant; dolphin; whale; and other living species of plants, and animals?

Just a question.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas June 23, 2021 at 8:22 am

Fascinating….European lawyers drafting historic definition “ecocide” to protect all crimes against environmental damage to the global ecosystem.


Gravitas June 23, 2021 at 8:26 am

The link

Macron and the Pope support it…as do several other international bodies and leaders.


Gravitas June 24, 2021 at 8:30 am
Gravitas June 27, 2021 at 8:29 am

Greatresearch-based article in U-T today, the 27th…on need for 4 million more trees in San Diego…ESPECIALLY in the poorest neighborhoods. Check out your neighborhood.



Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: