Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

Article excerpt

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet. By Jim Robbins. 2012. Spiegel & Grau. (ISBN 9781400069064). 240 pp. Hardback, $25.00 e-Book, $12.99.

"Planting trees may be the single most important ecotechnology that we have to put the broken pieces of our planet back together." With this statement, Jim Robbins explains his purpose in writing this book--to describe the important role that forests play in maintaining and enhancing the biosphere. He does a good job of explaining carbon sequestration and removal of air and water pollutants. He introduces the idea of forest migration as movement primarily north, but does not focus on global warming as the only cause. There is an excellent example of a positive feedback loop using a dying forest that contributes to a warming climate because the trees no longer capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Woven throughout the book is the unique story of David Milarch. In 1987, while going through alcohol withdrawal, Milarch says he died and went to heaven, where he was given a task to complete by "light beings" that spoke to him. He returned as a man driven with purpose: to clone the "champion" of every tree species in the country. A champion tree is the one tree of each species with the highest combined score of height, crown size, and diameter at breast height. The assumption is that champion trees are genetically superior and cloning them will increase the genetic fitness of future forests. As Milarch says, "This stump is back from the dead, same as I am. We're both playing the same role. It's a resurrection. This is where we ask the world to help heal itself." Jim Robbins hopes for a future world where appropriate forest infrastructure is considered when building any new development and believes that "David Milarch, with the help of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, is well under way on his quixotic campaign to protect the genetics of the old-growth trees and to create supergroves that will perpetuate the genetics around the world."

Most chapters focus on the description of one tree species. The story of the 2,200 year-old Mother of the Forest giant sequoia tree that was stripped of all of its bark in 1854, killing the tree, and then reassembled for viewing by crowds in London and New York City, is presented as a sad moment in our history, but as a result, ecotourism to see the giant sequoias increased and the remaining trees were saved from being chopped down. …

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