The Ax Forgets, But The Tree Remembers

Patrick McCorkle
2 min readApr 24, 2024

The basis of my environmentalism is the Golden Rule: ‘to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.’ I aim maximize benefit and to minimize injury to my fellow man, so why shouldn’t I aim to do the same to all life and what is needed to sustain it? In practice, this is more of a gradient than an absolute law.

For instance, I have relationships with humans that I cannot have with most life or substances. I will consume plants and animals but not humans. Nevertheless, I try to think about the consequences of my actions beyond my fellow humans and live accordingly.

The Star Wars TV show The Mandalorian inspired me to articulate this belief in another way. One episode is “The Ax Forgets,” whose title was inspired by an African proverb that goes “the ax forgets, but the tree remembers.” There are a variety of ways to interpret it. As a pair of human beings, the ax would be the aggressor and the tree would be the victim. It’s far easier for the aggressor to forget about their crimes, while the victim suffers for years or their entire life.

As with the Golden Rule, I apply the proverb to environmentalism. An ax, or other tools such as drills, hammers, cars and so on are designed to make human lives easier. We forget the damage they cause because their nature is to serve us. Tools do not analyze their function. Its creators do. Currently, humanity is too busy benefitting from these tools to question their impact. Why interrupt the flow of benefits? So we ‘forget’ in order to continue harming what is around us.

Meanwhile, animals, plants, the oceans, the earth and our atmosphere cannot ‘forget’ because humanity is transforming their existence. They have to ‘remember’ how things used to be and fight for them or adapt as best as they can to the new order.

Imagine yourself as a tree. An ax comes, chops you down, then moves onto its next victim. As you lay helpless to stop the carnage, more and more of your friends fall. You cannot forget. You should not forget.

Let us always remember the positive and negative that we and our tools impose on our world. Both on Earth Day and beyond.




Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.