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Could there be a future where humans can listen to the song of trees? As we live in the geological age of the Anthropocene, humans and nature are becoming more and more disconnected, with both parties environmentally suffering as a result. How can we establish a safe future for both nature and humans? How can we reconnect again with nature and take care of our planet? Romy Snijders, a designer from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College in London, may have the answer.

Symbiotic Futures is a speculative design project which visualizes a future vision where we learn to understand the language of trees and establish a symbiotic relationship with the forest. Trees communicate with each other through a network of fungi which is called mycelium, which could be compared to the ‘internet of the forest’. In order to tap into this ‘Forest Wide Web’, Snijders designed a set of two tools. These allow us to listen and understand the complex communication between trees. Ultimately this fights the disconnection that comes forth out of the way we humans perceive nature.

The first tool is attached to two trees and traces the incoming and outgoing communication between them, showing which trees are connected and in which direction the information is flowing. The second tool is plugged into a mycelium hotspot which can detect signals that are send by the trees. The utensil then transforms this data into a soundscape that can be heard and recorded by us humans, making us a part of the forest.

With our current world in a state of crisis, optimistic future scenarios are bringing hope and inspiration to humanity. In our Trendbook we introduce a trend called ‘The Caretakers’ which is focusing on the shifting values regarding harmony, contribution and respect. We notice that we value contributing to a better world in order to reconnect and get ourselves back into the circle of life. Symbiotic Futures gives us examples of tools for us humans to reconnect and really understand our surroundings better. By learning to perceive trees as living beings, able to communicate and contribute, we oblige ourselves to be more respectful towards nature.

According to Snijders, we don’t have to wait for human design and politics alone, we can already make the first steps towards this example of a symbiotic future. We can do this by re-growing nature to increase biodiversity and educate ourselves and our children more about the wonders and intelligence of nature. The time to change is now and change is crucial for the well-being of our environmental health. The times of feeling responsibility are over, we are now being held accountable for our polluting actions.

If you want to know more about the project, click here.

Do you want to know more about the trend The Caretakers? Then read our trend book for the Dutch Design Week 2020 here.

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