Issue 3 - Spring 2017


By Dave Muffly

Senior Arborist, Apple

Imagine the Earth in your mind. Floating in space, a three-dimensional, cloudless, rotatable, Google-Earth image; the cosmic island we call home.

Look at the green, white, and tan zones. Now imagine what is happening to those colored splotches today, as white retreats, green shifts, and tan expands.

Forests, scrublands, and grasslands are dying, burning, moving, and being removed. This is habitat changing and disappearing in real time. Every day you can read stories about some new habitat shift, another creature edging its way toward extinction. As the climate changes, plants and other creatures can become stranded, blocked by a myriad of factors from moving toward zones of survivability in the new climate regimes.

Trees can't get up and walk. With the loss of associated plants and ecosystems, vast numbers of creatures are killed or displaced. These are the non-human climate refugees of our time.

Some humans look upon these changes with emotions that range from apprehension to terror. They understand that humans evolved in the cauldron of biodiversity, within the fabric of the web of life, even as we rip that fabric asunder. Of course humans will, in some form or another, survive whatever biological catastrophe that may await us.

But what of the rest of life? And, philosophically at least, what effect will this have on what used to be called the human soul?

These questions are driving people to think creatively. As the words assisted migration begin appear in the biological literature, controversy ensues, as always with big ideas. But some who harbor these ideas may be sufficiently afraid, and sufficiently courageous, to act.

But how? How do humans competently play god? How do we assist the biosphere to rapidly adapt to current climate shifts?

One plan is to plant evacuation corridors stretching northward, and across elevation gradients, from current habitats, to weave a net of green over the surface of the planet. Corridors is a concept for buffering mass extinction.

Can you see it in your mind? On the visualized Earth, Corridors become thin lines of green, stretching from one zone of shifting green to another. Sometimes cutting through the tan. Sometimes moving invisibly, simply adding the right plants to an existing green matrix.

Sometimes the green lines swell - these are the Nodes, which harbor larger populations of diverse life, acting as ecological refugia for the future. These can be university arboreta, highway crossings, pipelines, private land, corporate campuses, or entire municipal forests.

With Corridors, perhaps humans can plant resiliency directly into a shifting and contracting biosphere, using all the science and wisdom we can muster.

People currently lacking meaning or direction in life could be tapped, in a global effort, not only to revitalize the biosphere, but also to enliven an increasingly alienated humanity. Corridors could provide not only habitat for wild creatures, but also refugia for the human soul.