Keeping Things in Perspective

Often times we are so preoccupied with our lives that we begin to lose perspective of the greater scheme of things. Specifically, we forget how insignificant we are when compared to the grander scale of life and time.

Last week, the world’s oldest tree was found on a mountain in central Sweden – and it is still growing. The 9,500-year-old Norwegian Spruce was discovered by scientists at Umeå University during a 2004 tree census in Fulufjällets National Park in Sweden. The age of the tree was established using carbon-14 dating at a laboratory in Miami, Florida after an investigation by the university. Leif Kullman, a professor of Physical Geography at Umeå University, named the tree Old Tjikko, after his Siberian husky.

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During the last ice age the sea level was 120 meters lower than today and much of what is now the North Sea in the waters between England and Norway was at that time forest. Kullman said: ‘I can imagine that it may be probable that the first firs came from these areas.’ He says wind and low temperature have seen the tree end up ‘like a bonsai tree’ with a lot of firs and a small trunk.

It has been able to survive so long thanks to the process of vegetative propagation, which means it is able to effectively clone itself. While the visible portion of the 13 ft tall tree is relatively new, its root system has been growing for almost ten thousand years. The parts of the root system that were sent to the United States dated back nearly 10,000 years, but it is possible that other parts are older.

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To put this discovery into perspective, the development of the wheel has been dated to the mid-4th millennium BC (about 6500 years ago). The earliest known Neolithic writings – the Dispilio Tablet (Greece) and the Tărtăria tablets (Romania) – have been carbon dated to the 6th millennium BC (8000 years ago). It is almost difficult to imagine that this little tree has been alive to see our species develop from a population of 5 million individuals living in small hunter-gatherer bands to the dominant species on Earth with 7 billion members.

The next time you are worried about an upcoming evaluation or are simply feeling stressed, make it a habit to take a moment and think about where you stand in relation to the world. You will realize that your problems are not as big as they seem.

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