- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (Nov. 29 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143120166
- ISBN-13: 978-0143120162
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 19.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 159 g
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can Save Us Paperback – Nov 29 2011
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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.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“On occasion, someone understands a subject so deeply that information is transmuted into wisdom. This book marks one of those occasions – it is rich and hopeful and compelling.”
– Bill McKibben
“Beautifully written . . .this book delves into environmental sciences with a fresh perspective.”
– New Scientist
“The essays of The Global Forest are a beautiful and poetic tribute to their subject, based on wide-ranging scientific knowledge.”
– E.O. Wilson
“An important book with many significant insights into the interconnectedness of trees and other life forms.”
– Orion Magazine
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It's a love letter of sorts.
With Deepest Thanks to Diana Beresford-Kroeger
All adults who think it is okay to chop and clearcut would benefit from this thoughtful, meaningful look at nature.
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.
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. And, research has found, this flavour change happens not only in the affected tree but immediately in all close standing trees, suggesting some form of communication. Beresford-Kroeger explains these and other phenomena in very convincing ways.
The author, a botanist and medical biochemist is a recognized expert on the medicinal, environmental and nutritional properties of trees, shares in this brief comprehensive book her knowledge and wisdom that encompasses all creatures in the forests and their interrelationships. She has studied traditional societies, from First Nations in Canada to many others around the world and recorded their, often oral, knowledge of the medicinal properties of trees and plants. It is a cross-genre kind of book, rich in scientific detail as well as filled with story telling and spiritual meaning. At times, the author resorts to anthromorphizing that I personally don't find totally convincing. Still, ideally, it is a book to be kept in a prominent place and consulted regularly rather than read in one go and filed away. It is a reference guide to the living world of the Global Forests. I would have preferred a comprehensive index and glossary to assist in a regular and on-going consulting of the incredible depth and diversity of information. The reference reading list is helpful but could also have been expanded. [Friederike Knabe]
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