Still Learning To See

The web we live on

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 8.01.55 AM

It is more clear than ever we are part of a larger web, both in the natural world and in the world of commercial and social interactions we humans have created. Not to stretch the analogy but perhaps this tiny virus is simply the most current “big spider” in that web. In fact, we have long known of, and to a great extent, ignored, our interconnectedness to each other and to the rest of Earth.


Having worked closely with trees, especially those in the “urban forest,” over the past 30 years, I have seen this web collapse for entire species—America Chestnut, American Elm, Butternut, American Beech, and most recently Ash—and the collapse has happened suddenly given the life of a tree.


The reality of life today is that the web is being torn apart. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal are becoming extinct every 24 hours, at least 1000 times the “natural” rate.

Human extinction is not the issue, rather it is if and how we can learn to live in the rapidly changing world we have created.

What can we learn from this crazy dance with the coronavirus about ourselves, each other, and this remarkable Planet Earth that will serve us in the next decades as our children and grandchildren grow up?


This entry was published on March 15, 2020 at 9:00 am. It’s filed under John Snell, John Snell Photographer, People, Trees, Vermont, and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “The web we live on

  1. Joshua on said:

    Hi John,

    I always enjoy seeing your posts come through my inbox. Even if they are reminders of how imbalanced things have come to be. I hadn’t heard that statistic about the rate of species extinction. Pretty staggering.

    I just got done reading the hidden life of trees and found it to be fascinating. Have you read that book?

    I hope you and Liz are faring well.

    Sending our love, Josh and fam

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Thanks, Josh, and yes, it is inconceivable the rate is that high. Some of the extinctions are “tiny, little bits of life” that may make no difference but might we not have said that about a certain virus a year ago too?! Yes, Hidden Life if an amazing peek below ground and behind science and many of his ideas are becoming more and more mainstream and tested. Have you read about Pando, the aspen clone in Utah? Fascinating. All OK here even in the midst of the craziness. Hugs to you and the fam as well.

  3. Joshua on said:

    Glad to hear you guys are doing ok. We’re fine here as well. Getting outside in nature as much as possible to maintain mental and physical health but also practicing social distancing so we can do our part to lessen the curve of infection. I just read that Pando appears to be collapsing as a result of over grazing by deer and cattle. Sad to hear. It seems that it might be reversible if the overgrazing can Be handled? Hopefully we can get apex predator populations back into balance there (as well as here in Colorado). There continues to be a strong push to return wolves to Colorado which I would love to see.

    Sent from my iPhone


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