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The Oldest Living Things in the World Hardcover – April 14, 2014
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This book is simply awe-inspiring - to be among beings that live such lives, where ice ages might come and go around the one individual. That time scale simply boggles the mind. Then the chill sets in: a few of these beings have died since their pictures were taken. A tree of 3000 years succumbed to fire, another of 13,000 was killed in a construction project. What lived so long can die in minutes, and you can't just plant some seeds and grow a new one, not 13,000 years old. Gone, after all that time, because of natural hazards or human carelessness.
And, in the current Great Extinction, we'll lose a lot more, mostly never having known they ever lived. Environmental threats and climate change can move faster than these living things can respond. I find it humbling, too - so few human artifacts or cultures have the power to last as long as these beings have.
Although the naturalist who collected these images took care with proper identification, she's not a scientist by trade. She's an artist, a photographer. But she's a part of the scientific venture, too, making it humanly understandable, even personal, and stirring the sense of awe and respect that underlies nearly all scientific research. (I first became aware of this book through a review in Science magazine.) Really, she just proves that the dichotomy of science and art is artificial and arbitrary, more an artifact of the viewer's preconceptions than of the fields themselves. This has my highest recommendation.
The Senator tree is not the only seemingly immortal treasure damaged/killed by man - there's a 3,000+ year-old chestnut tree near Mt. Etna in which someone tried to grill sausages inside it. Fortunately, that tree was saved and a protective fence since erected.
Other such treasures are also threatened from time to time - thankfully she's well into her work. Sussman has also traveled to Greenland that grow only 1 cm. every hundred years, Tasmania to record a 43,000-year old shrub, a dense bush in Chile's Atacama Desert that is as much as 3,000 years old, etc.
I was surprised to learn that creosote bushes, of which there are many in my yard, have been estimated at 12,000 years-old in the Mohave Desert. Turns out they grow-out from a center via circular expansion of roots. So, mine may also be very, very old as well. The really good news - they can survive up to two years without water. Quaking Aspen in Utah, underground forests in South Africa, and other trees/bushes spread out similarly from a very old center. Olive trees may be 3,000 years old.
There's also 5,500-year-old moss on Elephant Island in Antarctica (looks deceptively like ordinary moss), and younger (2,200 year-old moss) growing atop 9,000-year-old fossilized remains of its predecessors. Oldest of all - 400,000 to 600,000 year-old Siberian bacteria (microscopic), and still alive, per the experts.
Truly an awe-inspiring work.
The artist Rachel Sussman for last ten years conducted an extensive research helped by the biologists, travelling around the world and taking photos of the flora that is 2 000 years old or even older.
With her pictures taken all around the world, in the areas with eternal snow, or places where a drop of rain has not fallen for an eternity, Rachel has managed with her objective to convey emotions and beauty of ancient life which is kind of hard to express in words - it must be seen and felt in her photographs.
Except the reader can enjoy her photographs, equally valuable, educating and useful are the author texts, among other things, based on the work of scientists which explored the subjects of her photos – they will occupy readers, offering the opportunity to learn about the many beauties and variety of life on Earth for which unfortunately we realize how little do we know after the last page of her impressive book is closed.
80 000 years old colony of aspen trees in Utah, moss older than 5 000 years on Antarctica and almost 44 000 years old shrub on Tasmania are just some of the jewels of which you will find out between the covers of this book, about which you probably just like I did not know anything.
Therefore, ‘The Oldest Living Things in the World’ is both a work of art thanks to the photographs author provided, a scientific work because of the writings found inside - in a word, breathtaking comprehensive experience given by Rachel Sussman which you will continually enjoy, just like me since I picked up for the first time this book in my hands.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful photography, quality book. All my friends love it!Published 27 days ago by Amazon Customer
My grandson has a fascination with all things ancient. This book is too advanced for him now (age 7) but we have conversations about what it shows. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Deb Seeger
Love love love. Well written and real. Pictures awesome. An education in the best , most interesting way. Should be required reading !!!!!!Published 4 months ago by Melonie Burch
This book is filled with breathtaking photos and wonderful narrative, both scientific and personal. One of my biggest take-aways (though not the main intention of the book) was a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by sara sussman
Breathtaking photos of many previously not-widely known examples of living things that put the timescale of human existence into perspective. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Four