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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tree-huggers of the world, unite?..., April 9, 2012
This review is from: The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
... I used to read Jean Giono's Man Who Planted Trees to my children, in French, in France, for bedtime. It was a wonderful, fully illustrated edition, and told the story of one shepherd, in the French Alps, who changed the devastated landscape of a remote French valley, which was an ecological nightmare, into a virtual "Garden of Eden," all by himself, because he planted thousands and thousands of trees. The tale demonstrated initiative, love and care for the natural world, how one person "can make a difference," and a slew of other feel-good ideas, all of which you hope to imbue your children with. As for the Garden of Eden at the end, well, it was a bit of a fairy tale, no harm there. Though I adamantly refuse to wear clothes emblazoned with corporate logos, if I saw a tee-shirt labeled "tree-hugger," I'd be more than happy to don it, because trees and forests resonate deep with my genes. And so, when this book, with the same title, popped up on my Vine listing, I had to punch the "Yes" button. Properly, Jim Robbins commences his book with a brief discussion of Giono's tale.

Then Robbins quickly introduces his "French shepherd," David Milarch, a shade tree nurseryman from Copemish, Michigan, near Traverse City. The introduction includes describing all the "warts," and there are a few, including alcoholism, and gang rumbles as a youth. Milarch also claims salvation, and a life-changing experience when his spirit left his body in what is referred to as a "near-death" experience. There are also substantial dollops of mysticism, with trees communicating in ways much stronger than the apparently relatively weak way they resonate with me. Milarch makes decisions largely on instinct, eschewing scientific rigor. All of which is sufficient to create a bit of unease in many a reader. On the other hand, with passion, funded on a shoe-string, he has accomplished more than many a worthless governmental agency, or well-funded foundations. He has successfully cloned many a "champion tree," which he selects based essentially on its size, and this includes redwoods, oaks, sequoias, yews and others, and has disseminated his clones to distant lands, to create new forests, in other parts of the world. Finally, it turns out that all us computer users, i.e., most everyone, have helped Milarch. He eventually started receiving some serious money from one of the folks who made their fortune with US Robotics, a modem maker.

Robbins is a Science writer for the New York Times, Scientific American and numerous other solid periodicals. He alternates chapters between Milarch, and his endeavors, and reasonably solid scientific chapters on certain tree species, with the focus on the best. The oldest living trees in the world? The bristlecone, growing in the Great Basin National Park, nearly 5,000 years old. The yew is another tree I knew nothing about, and now, inter alia, I know that it helped the English win the Battle of Crecy in the Hundred Years War since it made the best and strongest bow. The most expansive forest of yews is at Kingley Vale, near Chichester in England, and it seems that a visit there has now become obligatory. Even if the reader completely ignored the chapters on Milarch, and I would strongly advise against that, Robbins chapters on various tree species make the book a worthwhile read.

But it is the science itself that I do not feel Robbins addressed sufficiently, though a couple caveats are occasionally expressed. If one is creating forests out of the SAME cloned tree, where is genetic diversity? One new (or old) disease fells the lot, even if they were once "champions." Robbins also peppers his work with the continue expressed concerns about global warming; fair enough, it really does seem to be warming. Robbins also discusses environmental destruction caused by continued "development"; once again, OK, fair enough, we agree, but trees alone, and the stated "Bioplan" at the end of the book will simply not resolve these issues if the rate of increase of the earth's human population is not addressed. Trees and recycling, and water conservation, and all the rest are simply not enough if the "elephant in the room" is not discussed. And Robbins does not, in the "Bioplan," or anywhere else. And thus, only 4-stars.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 20, 2012 9:24:45 PM PDT
B.T. says:
Thanks for an excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2012 2:18:45 PM PDT
Likewise, thanks for reading it...

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Review Details



John P. Jones III

Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 570