Why “Tree Hugger?”
We at Tree Hugger Santa Fe have chosen this name despite more than a few objections. When you understand the term’s full history, we think you’ll see why it’s actually a perfect name for this website and our cause.
Today ‘Tree Hugger’ has a negative connotation given it in the 1970’s by reactionary elements attempting to disparage the nascent environmental movement. But, in the face of runaway climate disruption and the very real threat of extinction, we find ourselves called to return this much-maligned term to its true meaning.
We can no longer continue to treat nature, and the Santa Fe National Forest, as commodities.
Our only defense in our current climate crisis is a change in our consciousness and behavior.
The Ojibwe activist Winona LaDuke calls our callous attitude towards the environment part of the “windigo economy.” A “windigo” is a corrupted, soulless cannibal. The only way to transform the windigo economy – the engine driving the climate crisis – is to move beyond the form of consciousness responsible for it: the ‘subject/object split’.
A tree isn’t a ‘thing’; it’s an intelligent, social organism. The forest isn’t real estate. It’s an intelligent, social super-organism. One way to start re-unifying the split is to reaffirm the time-honored tradition of standing in solidarity – in I-Thou rather than I-It relationship – with all the ‘tree people’, in a forest of aware subjects rather than inanimate objects.
There is a moving history behind the origins of the term “tree hugger,” a crude translation for an act of unifying defiance.
If you reach back prior to the 70’s, you will discover the heart of the term “tree hugger.”
The term derives from the spiritual students of the Bishnois sect of Hinduism in western Rajasthan, India. In a peaceful protest protecting their forests where they lived and thrived, 363 of these nature-reverent Bishnois gave their lives for their trees.
Inspired by the Bishnois willingness to risk their lives in defense of the forest, the Chipko Movement was born in 1973 when a group of women protected their trees from logging in the Indian village of Pradesh. The word “Chipko” comes from the Hindi word meaning “to stick to” or “to hug.” When the Chipko were faced down by the government prepared to destroy their forest, they stood together, wrapping their bodies around the trees.
The Chipko Movement was ultimately successful. The trees they held in peaceful protest still stand.
Our name speaks to our interconnection with nature in Santa Fe, New Mexico and how the fight against deforestation is a fight for our own existence.
The Chipko Movement has facilitated the protection of forests worldwide and successfully encouraged the preservation of soil, water, habitat, animal and human life.
We refuse to settle for the poor assumptions being made by the majority. For example; that “thinning” is “healthy” for the forest and will protect us from wildfire. We need to stand together and face the reality of our crumbling environment, and humbly look back to the Bishnois people who understood the true value of trees. Their tradition continues to this day – which is why we are Tree Hugger Santa Fe!