I’ve always assumed the term “tree huggers” originated in the 1960s when strung-out hippies wrapped their needle-ridden arms around trees so that big, bad foresters or condo builders wouldn’t cut trees down. You can imagine my surprise when I learned the term “tree hugger” dates all the way back to 1730 when 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism hugged all the trees in their village so they wouldn’t be cut down to build a big, bad dictator’s palace. Alas, the trees and the villagers were all cut down to size.
I suppose you could say that the original tree huggers’ actions were effective because their protest did lead to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting down of any more trees in the depopulated Bishnois village. And it also gave birth to the Chipko movement that started when native women all over India began clinging to trees in an attempt to save them from being turned into sawdust and wood chips. And, of course, we saw many instances in the United States in the 1960s where ditzy college girls would wrap themselves around trees and hug them. Although I attribute this less to their desire to save trees and more to the fact that hippie gals of the 60s found the trees to be warmer, stronger, sexier, smarter and more trustworthy than hippie men of the same era. Plus there was a shortage of American men to hug because they were either in Vietnam or Canada.
I think this tree-hugging idea is an excellent form of political protest and it could be just as effective for animal rightists if they’d try it. Although instead of hugging trees I think they ought to hug wolves and grizzly bears in wolf and bear sanctuary states like Wyoming and Montana. It would be an excellent non-violent way to save the wolves and bears. (At least it would be non-violent on the human’s part.) By attaching themselves to wolves and bears the protesters would get to answer the call of the wild, go on adventurous raiding parties and see for themselves if bears and wolves do indeed dine on the occasional lamb or calf. I foresee only a couple problems with my idea. First, easterners are going to have to come west to link up with endangered wild animals because last time I checked there were only 39 endangered species in the entire northeast portion of the U.S. while there were 543 endangered species in just five far western states. Secondly, with the shortage of sheep and cattle on public lands these days the wolves and bears might turn on the huggers clinging to their backs and eat them for breakfast.
I’ve heard a lot of bunk on how to survive a bear attack by running, climbing a tree or playing dead. As for the latter, by laying perfectly still and playing dead all this does is allow the wolf or bear you’re hugging to get up close and personal with the food they eat, a popular trend lately.
Climbing a tree shouldn’t be an option either because bears love to play a game they call bear piñata in which they stand on their haunches and swipe at humans in trees. They take turns knocking off arms and legs until the winner manages to knock the entire piñata to the ground, so to speak. Then they bust the piñata open and share all the good stuff inside. Another reason climbing a tree to get away from a bear is a bad idea is that bears can also climb trees.
Wolves and bears aren’t all that clingy to begin with and there may come a point when human huggers should detach themselves. Since both wolves and bears can run faster than humans, I’d suggest that wolf and bear huggers purchase those dog leashes that are so popular these days so that if their chosen bear or wolf was in a foul mood they could give said animal a very long leash. Say two miles. This would also help the Department of Fish and Game know how many wolf and bear huggers were “lost” when a bear or wolf came to camp dragging an empty leash.
And it would all be very green because the leashes are reusable!