Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
An Elegant Look at the Power of Trees and how they affect us
on December 29, 2012
Gretchen C. Daily, a Stanford environmental professor, and Charles Jr. Katz, Jr., a talented photographer, have partnered to produce a minor classic, The Power of Trees. This slim book summarizes, in words and pictures, the phenomenal impact trees have on our world and in our lives. Rather than recite reams of hard-to-understand statistics, however, Gretchen Daily writes a brief and elegant summary of the power of trees en masse; this is not a catalog of different trees or a physical description of particular tree species, but a bold attempt to capture a sweeping picture of how important the entire tree empire is to our lives on earth.
Charles Katz's small black and white photographs of trees in Washington State's Skagit Valley nicely complement Ms Daily's poetic words. His photographs show a variety of trees, from the gnarled roots of an old-timer to hillsides of young trees growing on a clear-cut. Like Ms Daily's text, Mr. Katz is not illustrating a particular tree; he is providing a glimpse of trees in their totality and how they dominate the landscape. These spare and precise pictures bring to mind the photographers of the mid-20th Century, almost as if Henri Cartier-Bresson got loose in the woods.
According to Ms Daily, trees constitute 95 percent of all living tissue on the Earth's surface. Their by-products are essential to life: the forests of the Amazon account for 8 trillion tons of water in the atmosphere each year. Trees are among the oldest of Earth's living things: California's Methuselah bristlecone tree is 5,000 years old (about the time human beings invented writing.) Trees are, understandably, the tallest of Earth's residents: a Sequoia sempervirens, the coastal redwood, has been measured at 379.1 feet. They are also the heaviest organisms: in Utah there is a Great Banyan Tree colony -- trees with interconnected roots that constitute a single individual -- called Pando. The colony consists of 47,000 trees, weighing an estimated 7,275 tons over 100 acres. Pando is anywhere from 80,000 to one million years old.
It is difficult to recommend The Power of Trees too highly. It is a refreshing change of pace from turgid descriptions of global climate change or the decline of biodiversity; obviously those issues are important, but sometimes it's necessary to "be in the present" and just stand back and look. Together Ms Daily and Mr. Katz have given us just what we need.