Forest: Cooperation, Not Competition

Forest: Cooperation, Not Competition

How do you see the forest?

Is it a site of cooperation? Or competition?

There’s just three letters difference between the words. But they are a whole world view apart.

It can be weird to read an author with a different world view. They get all the facts right, but organize them oddly. It’s as if they shook the facts up in a mirrored kaleidoscope. Or put the facts together like jigsaw puzzle pieces but followed the picture on the wrong box.

Often, I learn a lot from these odd perspectives. New political views, scientific theories, imaginative lenses. But sometimes I recoil. A perspective can seem so wrong. Even harmful. Then, I don’t want other readers to see it, absorb it, or think in its terms.

So, I run to my notebook and write a response. Assemble the facts differently, in the mirror of my world view. So that readers can see more accurately.

That’s what I did today. At the Lady Falls trailhead in Strathcona Park, I saw this sign:

Interpretive educational sign from at a park trailhead explaining that Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock trees compete for space in the forest. It calls them "silent warriors" vying for "success in battle" against one another.

Competition, not cooperation. Metaphors straight out of a warrior fantasy game. And thus, a strange world view to map onto a forest. 

So, here is my rewrite.

Cooperative Colleagues

The trees in this forest help keep the mountain alive. They anchor its soil, provide food and habitat for insects, birds, and rodents. How they share the workload depends on what happens around them. Climate, soil conditions, sunlight, and disturbances are a few elements that affect their decisions.

The main cooperators in this forest are the Douglas Fir and the Western Hemlock. Each specializes in a different kind of work.

Douglas Fir: The Quick Fix

Douglas Fir prefers a relatively dry soil and lots of sunlight. It is very fast-growing and quickly renews sites laid bare by fire or logging. Large trees can even withstand fires due to their thick protective bark. Douglas Firs step in to ensure the continuation of the forest after successive disturbances.

Western Hemlock: Slow and Stable

Western Hemlocks prefer moist growing conditions—often found when organic matter has accumulated in drier areas. Because they can grow in shade, they flourish when the forest is well-established. If this forest remains undisturbed, the Douglas Fir will yield and let successive generations of hemlocks do the work.

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