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The Global Forest [Hardcover]

Diana Beresford-Kroeger
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 18 2010
A gorgeously-written exploration of the natural world and the peril of ignoring our disappearing forests

One of the world's experts on how trees chemically affect the environment, Canadian scientist Diana Beresford-Kroeger is on a mission to save the planet- one newly planted tree at a time. In this new book, she skillfully weaves together ecology, ethnobotany, horticulture, spirituality, science, and alternative medicine to capture the magic spell that trees cast over us, from their untapped ecological and pharmaceutical potential to the roles they have played in our cultural heritage. Trees not only breathe and communicate; they also reproduce, provide shelter, medicine, and food, and connect disparate elements of the natural world. In celebrating forests' function and beauty, Beresford-Kroeger warns what a deforested world would look like. Her revolutionary bioplan proposes how trees can be planted in urban and rural areas to promote health and counteract pollution and global warming, main­taining biodiversity in the face of climate change.

Presented in short interconnected essays, The Global Forest draws from ancient storytelling traditions to present an unforgettable work of natural history. Beresford-Kroeger is an imaginative thinker who writes with the precision of a scientist and the lyricism of a poet. Her indisputable passion for her subject matter will inspire readers to look at trees with newfound awe.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

In the introduction to her new book, Canadian botanist, researcher, and lecturer Diana Beresford-Kroeger recalls the way Irish storytellers, the “living memory bank of [their] race,” treated their subjects. The rhythm and style of Beresford-Kroeger’s own writing emulates the storyteller’s oral tradition, which proves to be an effective means of presenting pithy and sometimes radical ideas.

Interesting details and an optimistic tone make The Global Forest more than just another book on impending ecological disaster. By drawing on mythology and spirituality, Beresford-Kroeger broadens the book’s scope beyond that of a simple scientific treatise, while also reminding readers that nature is the best healer and sustainer of life we have.

The bulk of these 40 short chapters (which the author calls “refrains”) advocates for the growth and preservation of indigenous trees. Much of the information in these “refrains” is surprisingly useful. For example, it’s handy to know that the coneflower is an antidote to the venom of eight different species of rattlesnake. Also, black walnut may protect against diabetes, and green walnut contains biochemicals that may help ward off childhood leukemia. The author, a self-proclaimed “renegade scientist,” combines Western medicine and botany with aboriginal healing. Science has yet to put the stamp of approval on much of her work, however, and very few studies of her findings have been undertaken.

While the material itself is interesting, the author’s habit of anthropomorphizing nature gets in the way. In books like The Bird Detective, ornithologist Bridget Stutchbury successfully humanizes her avian subjects to make a complicated ecosystem accessible for readers. In The Global Forest, however, Beresford-Kroeger’s use of a similar style is forced, partially because it’s difficult to visualize, say, mosses masturbating or lichens practicing bigamy, and partially because there’s just too much of this kind of thing. Overuse of such a fey style risks trivializing the seriousness of the book’s content and diluting its message.


Beresford-Kroeger's ideas are a rare approach to natural history... The essays of The Global Forest are a beautiful and poetic tribute to their subject, based on wide-ranging scientific knowledge. -- E.O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus Harvard University A beautifully written and carefully constructed book ... As I walked to work this morning, I did begin to see the trees with a newfound respect and awe -- Kayleigh Lawrence New Scientist [H]as the potential to do for trees what Rachel Carson's Silent Spring did for peregrines in the 1960s. The Global Forest has amazing breadth...Easy to read, each of her short essays could inspire a week's meditation. Live with them and discover your place in the global forest...When you have read this book you may want to embrace its author. -- Graham Long BBC Wildlife magazine Diana Beresford-Kroeger has woven together ecology, ancient myth, horticulture, spirituality, science and alternative medicine in The Global Forest to capture trees' enormous significance to us... each of these forty interlocking essays picks out a different aspect of life in the forest, explains it and then shows why it is so vitally important. The Green Parent This book has a simple and important message: trees are important, we should look after them more, cut them down less, conserve their habitats, revere them more -- Jules Pretty Times Higher Education --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Botanical poetry June 19 2010
I purchased this book based on a newspaper interview with author, a botanical scientist who promotes the potential for forests to fight pollution, climate change and even human illness through their natural processes and products. I expected it to be a somewhat dry but informative guide to the practical botany of trees. It is in fact something completely different.
A slender volume (166 pages of text, including introduction), it is organized into forty "chapters" that are really 4-6-page essays on specific aspects of tree physiology or chemistry. But perhaps because of the Irish ancestry she references at the outset, with its tradition of storytelling, the form of the essays is far from scientific but rather that of almost mystical, poetic appreciation. They even begin with a subtitle "refrain" that captures the essence of each piece. Yes, the book is full of the amazing facts I was hoping to find - such as the existence of warm-blooded plants and the complex chemistry that trees have evolved in order to survive. And there is a hopeful theme of the potential to reverse global ecologic devastation through reforestation. But most of all this is the sensually and lovingly written ode of a passionate scientist, harking back to writers of more enlightened ages when this would not have been considered an oxymoron. Read it for the information, enjoy it for the style.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This intriguing and pertinent philosophical question, asked in a song by well-know Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn is being answered by a resounding "YES!" in Diana Beresford-Kroeger's highly edifying, detailed and accessible exploration on the life of trees, plants and creatures in the global forests of planet Earth. The author's message in her work, and in this book, is that it is vital for nature's survival as a healthy environment for us and the following generations is to listen and learn. We are called to get engaged in the tasks to help preserve and restore the forests with all their diversity of plants and trees and cohabitating creatures, from insects to bees to birds, from fungi to lichens and more. In forty short chapters, the author takes us by the hand and guides us through different forests, highlighting and explaining what we should know about them, from a biological, ethno-cultural, medicinal and spiritual and any other possible perspective.

Among the many "Wow"! moments when reading the book, I was particular fascinated by everything to do with communication by trees and plants in the forest. It seems that human beings are at a great disadvantage, because most of us cannot hear these "infrasounds", sense the aerosols and understand the low waves of chemicals moving under the forest floor. Through these communication means, trees attract not only the necessary pollinators or emit medicinal aerosols necessary for their and the surrounding flora's health, they can create sound or chemical reactions that are warning signals if a predator is approaching that could endanger the tree's well-being. I had heard about the ability of certain acacia trees to suddenly change the "flavour" of their leaves so that animals would stop eating them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Never be a stranger in the forest again. Nov. 17 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is both magical and scientific. Helps you to better understand your kinship with trees. We need each other, humans and trees
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
IT WAS wonderful , very happy that it was a lot more than i thought ? fariy s lost in the world
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