If you leave a human, a dog, and a chimpanzee on a deserted island, who stands the best chance of survival? Odds are the human will have the most difficult time surviving. So many other species are much more capable of enduring harsh conditions on their own. And yet humans have managed to thrive on this planet. What gives humans the edge they seem to have?
This week I learned the largest living organism on the planet is a Pando…no, not Panda. Pando, Latin for “I spread,” is an expansive grove of quaking aspens. Aspens multiply asexually through their roots and colonize large areas through a shared root system. Because they all share the same genetic makeup, they’re often referred to as clones. A 106-acre grove of 47,000 trees in Richfield, Utah, all originated from one single male parent aspen (Nace, 2018). The strength of the aspen comes from its community root, giving it incredible longevity. The Bristlecone Pines in Utah is the oldest known aspen “clone” and is over 80,000 years old (Ettema, 2014).
Redwoods are another great example of the strength provided by a community. These giant trees have very shallow roots, only about six feet deep. Those shallow roots spread widely, however, and intertwine with the roots of others of its species giving the trees almost supernatural stability (The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water, n.d.). These giants standing over 300 feet tall endure raging winds and other severe conditions.
Back to our deserted island scenario . . . what if instead of dropping off a single human, we unload a community of humans? Now odds makers would definitely recalculate the probability of survival. Humans survive as community…humans THRIVE as community.
In these times we admire the independent hero who ventures out on her own. We view individualism as a strength and tout our ability to “MAKE IT” without any help. But we can’t make it without help. We need one another. We are like the aspens and the redwoods. When humans acknowledge a common root and accept the need to intertwine in such a way to hold each other in violent storms, they don’t just endure, they flourish, succeed, evolve – they RISE. Humans can only truly soar when they are rooted in community.
Ettema, H. (2014, March 21). Tree Profile: Aspen – So Much More Than a Tree. Retrieved from National Forests: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/tree-profile-aspen-so-much-more-than-a-tree
Nace, T. (2018, October 18). The World’s Largest Organism, Pando, Is Dying. Retrieved from Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/10/18/the-worlds-largest-organism-pando-is-dying/#141dc81d5554
The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water. (n.d.). Retrieved from Exploring the Eel River Valley: sunnyfortuna.com/explore/redwoods_and_water.htm