The Power of Trees

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By Colin Barras. Shoving electrodes into tree trunks to harvest electricity may sound like the stuff of dreams, but the idea is increasingly attracting interest.


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If we can make it work, forests could power their own sensor networks to monitor the health of the ecosystem or provide early warning of forest fires. Children the world over who have tried the potato battery experiment know that plant material can be a source of electricity.

In this case, the energy comes from reduction and oxidation reactions eating into the electrodes, which are made of two different metals — usually copper and zinc. The same effect was thought to lie behind claims that connecting electrodes driven into a tree trunk and the ground nearby can provide a current. Trees seem capable of providing a constant voltage of anywhere between 20 and a few hundred millivolts — way below the 1.

Forest Bathing and the Healing Power of Trees

His team has managed to obtain a usable voltage from big-leaf maple trees by adding a device called a voltage boost converter. The converter spends most of its time in a kind of stand-by mode as it stores electrical energy from the tree, periodically releasing it at 1.

The Very Real Healing Power of Trees - Garden Collage Magazine

It operates at millivolts and uses just a nanowatt of power. Parviz thinks trees could power gadgets to monitor their own physiology or their immediate surroundings, for ecological research. And, he adds, as electronic components continue to shrink and require less power, it is possible tree electricity could one day have a wide range of uses. I feel peaceful and grounded.

Trees and Power Lines

They also found that people who just looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had a 13 per cent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol. As well as the physiological benefits of trees, attention is turning to the relatively new field of eco-psychology. This is based on the notion that our disconnection with nature is a central factor in many of our emotional woes.

I use trees as a metaphor for self-examination by acknowledging our roots, finding our heartwood, and focusing on how we can branch out to provide shade and fruits for others. Complementary therapist Annie Day practises tree spirit healing.

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Our pagan ancestors worshipped trees, but for many of us nature has been pushed out of our lives. I put my hands on the ground and press down with my feet, picturing negative feelings as dark light sinking into the earth. Doctors are embracing the benefits of trees, too. Rather than prescribing antidepressants, GPs in Telford, Doncaster and Camden, north London, are referring patients suffering from stress, depression or anxiety to Green Gyms where they can get involved in conservation projects.

Research by Oxford Brookes University shows that cardiovascular health benefits from exercise and fresh air, but woodland surroundings have a calming effect that assists recovery more than a gym.

The Healing Power of Trees

Modern medicine often sets the physical and the emotional apart, yet with their roots firmly in the ground and their branches reaching up to the skies, trees remind us that the two are planted firmly together. From the sound of a shovel hitting earth to the joy of seeing a new shoot break ground, working a garden can bring real meaning to our days.