The illustrations show a Tree of Life (above left) in ancient West Asia, the felling of a Sacred Tree by St Boniface (Thor’s Oak, above right) and a Hanging Tree during the 30 Years War (below).
What do the illustrations tell us about changing attitudes to trees in western civilization? Here are some possibilities:
- the ancients saw trees (and forests) as symbols of the natural forces which control the world
- the early Church regarded tree-worship as idolatrous, because there is only one true God
- both trees and people were destroyed in the religious wars of the seventeenth century
In clearing and ‘managing’ what is left of the world’s forest cover we may be marching in the path of the Easter Islanders. At present, the most densely wooded countries are Finland (86% of the total land area), Sweden (57%) and Austria (47% ). Australia, suprisingly, has 20.1% forest cover. The European countries with the least forest are Ireland, with 8% of the land as forested and the United Kingdom with 11%.