I have been called a “tree hugger” for years. I have an innate love for nature (thanks Mom) and chose a profession in the environmental field. So I guess the label fits. But why is it sometimes said in a derogatory way? Maybe if the origins of the word were better understood that might change.
So what is a tree hugger really? Just some dazed hippie who goes around giving hugs to trees as a way to connect with nature? Hardly, the term has some pretty amazing roots, full of power and positive change, stemming from a deeply seated love for our planet.
The first tree huggers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into the raw material for building a palace.
They literally clung to the trees, while being slaughtered by the foresters. When the king (for whom the palace was being built) heard about their actions he signed a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees in any Bishnoi village. Now those villages are virtual wooded oases amidst an otherwise barren, desert landscape.
Not only did the first tree huggers do that, but they inspired the Chipko movement (which means “to cling”) that started in the 1970s. This was a group of peasant women in Northeast India that threw their arms around trees designated to be cut down. Ultimately their actions resulted in radical reforms in forest preservation.
The tree hugger movement continues today with modern environmentalism. If you are a human being interested in survival of the species, then you are, whether you recognize it or not, a tree hugger.
Once we can accept that fact, we start to move beyond negative labeling and start looking at the challenges we face, and how we can go about fixing them. That process will inevitably mean we need to continue with tree hugger movements if we are going to get the kind of policy decisions that shape a sane and sustainable relationship with the world around us.
I am happy to be a part of that movement if it means I help leave a healthy planet for my grand kids. So I guess that means I am proud to be a tree hugger.
Now…go out an hug a tree.
~Laura (The Horse Hippie)