The fact that several American production companies competed for the rights to the book by a forest ecologist who specializes in the symbiosis between trees and mycorrhizal fungi is only surprising at first glance.

On the second, Suzanne Simard's life and research contain all the ingredients of a story that Hollywood prefers to tell: the heroine's life-changing realization, the resulting mission, the fight against resistance - and a contemporary, comforting message: A forest is more than lots of trees, it's a community of caring creatures, it's like us.

This is what the professor, who teaches at the University of British Columbia, announces in interviews, TED talks that have been clicked on millions of times and now also in "The Wisdom of the Forests".

Petra Ahne

Editor in the Feuilleton.

  • Follow I follow

The screenplay suitability of the book is its strength and weakness at the same time.

Suzanne Simard combines life memories and research knowledge, which always leads to a rather clumsy dramaturgy.

The Eureka moment, for example, in which she, as a young employee of a forestry company, realizes that there is a symbiosis between mushrooms and trees and that is why the seedlings she looks after do not thrive on a clear-cut area – deprived of this network – follows the all too detailed one Description of a bull riding in which her brother participates.

At the same time, the book is of rare clarity precisely because of the scenic structure of science communication.

For example, the precise description of the experiment that proved that birch and Douglas fir trees exchange carbon through their roots would be less poignant if Simard hadn't described it as the sweaty and risky operation it was: on a hot July day, she pitched forty canvas tents over young ones trees and later, while encased in a hazmat suit, injected radioactive carbon isotopes to see if the diminished photosynthesis of one tree would be offset by subterranean nutrient uptake of the other (which it did).

More reflective than the forester Peter Wohlleben

Episodes such as Simard being addressed by a forest scientist at a conference as “Miss Birch”, which sounds a lot like “bitch”, reveal that a woman who represents unorthodox theses in the male-dominated scientific community is audible to many not only countered with arguments.

And finally, the autobiographical tale of the challenge of being a mother and a scientist with the same passion, of a failing marriage, of friendships that gave strength during cancer, makes the topic of relationships, attachments the overarching motif - and pushes the underground networks of tree roots and mushrooms close to human togetherness.

Simard knows that she is taking a risky path.

She does this in a more reflective manner than the forester and author Peter Wohlleben, whose successful and carelessly humanizing tree prose draws on Simard's research.

The anthropomorphization she pursues is a tribute to the concern to change the view of trees, of nature: to let them become the fascinating other, which at the same time is not so different, because all life was created by nature and on comparable regularities.

A caring community

It is true that the talk of old, particularly well-connected "mother trees" that "nurture the little ones" reproduces the anthropocentric view that has promoted alienation from nature since the Enlightenment.

But we cannot interpret the world around us in any other way than in comparison with our limited human perspective.

People are more likely to appreciate and protect what people are familiar with, Suzanne Simard believes in this and tries not to cross the fine line between illustration and falsification.