Friday, 4 July 2014

The Global Forest – 40 ways trees can save us. Diana Beresford Kroeger. Particular Books, Penguin, London. 2011. pp 175.

This review was written on October 21st 2011

I bought this book for Richard but had enough time to read it before it was delivered to him. The book deals with the North American forests and trees, and is divided into 40 chapters, each of four pages. This arrangement makes for easy reading and for dipping but I have to say that some of her science, while based on genuine research, can be a little difficult to understand.

As implied by the title and subtitle, the author is concerned about the vital role trees play in the health of the planet and the future of humanity. She is as much emotional and spiritual in her expressions of concern as she is in the life story of trees in our current environment. Her writing is a mélange of mysticism, symbolism, history, natural history and science - all based on her main principal silvicultural themes.

The author is a botanist and medical biochemist. She was born in Ireland and her introduction provides an idealised account of her early days as a child living in a farm, almost certainly in the West of the country where, among other features of the Irish landscape fifty years or more ago we find the contented cattle living close to humanity, the family donkey and cart to carry the older people to church on Sunday, the ubiquitous furze in the fields and massive hedgerows, now called gorse by our urbanised citizens. We also hear of the Seanchai, the traditional travelling story teller who attracted the family and local people around the turf fire at night.

The message which she imparts is the crucial role of trees in our natural history and our folklore, and the changes which are being wrought in our forests and their gradual destruction. She writes about the lifelong relationship between trees and humanity, about the loss of the Savannah in America, and the profound effect the loss of trees and forests is having on our biodiversity.

Biodiversity is defined by her as an expression of genetic flexibility. She describes the Savannah as the natural forest which in the past was an expression of a perfect balance between primitive Man and the  world’s flora and fauna. She regrets the modern dominance of humanity and particularly humanity’s greed so destructive to nature.

One theme of her book is summarised by the last few lines of her introduction

We are all of it in a unity that transcends the whole. Maybe, just maybe, this resonates of God. If that is so, then we are all his children, the earthworm, every virus, mammal, fish and whale, every fern, every tree, every man, woman and child. One equal to another. Again and again.

The chapter ‘the Forest, the Fairy and the Child’ finishes as follows

For you see, there is so much in a child. The conception of a child is the conception of all knowledge. Take away the tree and the fairy and you take away the child. This is the future. Listen to the child and remember the fairy--- too.

This may be pure sentiment but a reading of this chapter is moving and disturbing. The parable of taking away the child could be easily translated into the taking away of humanity and the destruction of the wonderful natural life of our planet.

Might we be better to return to the author’s early life in Ireland where we still lived in harmony with Nature and God?

No comments:

Post a Comment