Eco-Living Magazine

Book Review: David Suzuki’s Tree: A Life History

Posted on the 17 March 2013 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev
Tree a Life History

Over the past three weeks I read David Suzuki’s 2004 book Tree: A Life History. It yielded one post prior to this and a few Tweets here and there, and, now that I’ve finished, a review. Coauthored by nature writer Wayne Grady and occasional illustrations from Robert Bateman, the book traces the life history of a Douglas Fir, named for David Douglas, a Scottish naturalist who collected all manner of samples on his botanical expedition along the Pacific Coast in the early parts of the 19th Century.

Part scientific textbook, part historical documentation, Tree: A Life History attempts to balance forest ecology, botany, social science, and a deep respect for nature. On the whole Suzuki and Grady accomplish this, though at times the story feels a bit disjointed as it jumps between historical events occurring at various times throughout the tree’s development and the cellular biology of growth. Despite the occasionally awkward transition, the book succeeds on several fronts. For example, the lifespan of a Douglas-fir far outstrips the human life. Tying developmental milestones in the tree’s life to historical events helps humans ground their understanding of the specimen’s vast existence. Trees often live longer than humans, some as much as 3-4,000 years, making it difficult for humans to truly comprehend the vast lifespan of these organisms.

Additionally, the reverential attitude shines through so clearly. Suzuki and Grady have no pretensions that humanity completely understands the scale and complexity with which organisms operate in the forest. They lay out the incredible symbiosis that is at the heart of so many relationships in the forest, but stop short of offering their take as the definitive account.

It is clear that the authors exhibit the sense of wonder that enables them to write an entire book about a single tree. At its heart, this is a biography, literally the story of a living being. The fact that Suzuki and Grady can fill an entire book with information about this one entity makes it even more fitting that it falls into this genre. After all, there are countless biographies about leaders like George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. Why not a life history of a tree?

[Image source]

RSS Feed

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog