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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. ISBN: 0-393-05887-5

“Until recently, North America’s coastal rainforest was so poorly understood that even within the logging industry it was referred to as a ‘biological desert.’ While the process of cataloging and understanding the creatures that share the forest with these trees is still in its infancy, it is known that the forest floor, as well as the canopy above, is almost literally seething with life. It has been estimated that a square meter of temperate forest soil can contain as many as two million creatures representing a thousand species. Andy Moldenke, an entomologist at Oregon State University, calculated what might be found in within the area of an average-sized shoe; he determined that a single footstep in one of Oregon’s coastal forests is taken on the back of sixteen thousand invertebrates.”

And that’s just one paragraph from this remarkable book. A book which anyone living in the Pacific Northwest with even a passing interest in ecology should read. It’s the story of an amazing tree, a “golden” sport of a spruce tree, a tree that symbolized life itself to the Haida people of the Queen Charlotte Islands, but it’s much more than that. It’s also the story of how we as a society relate to our surroundings, specifically the forests that once covered this entire continent. It’s the story of the logging industry, both contemporary, and dating back to the discovery of the northwest coast. It’s a fascinating story, and one that will move and amaze you. If you live in the northwest, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

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