Thursday, September 07, 2006

What I'm reading

I finished reading The Golden Spruce. As Vaillant unfolds the story of this unique and magnificent tree and the man who cut it down, he weaves together such varied subjects as history, geography, culture, logging and environmental activism, botany, weather and marine conditions, psychology and spirituality into a nearly seamless narrative. Vaillant manages a fine balancing act. He is able to explore the culture of loggers and the larger societal-cultural forces at work within the logging industry (and beyond, since the logging industry doesn't exist in a vacuum) with sensitivity while clearly depicting what has happened to the giant forests of the Northwest and to the giants within those giant forest. On what Vaillant refers to as the "logger's conundrum":

"Another reason I like falling," he [a tree faller] said, "is I like walking around in old-growth forests. It's kind of an oxymoron, I guess-- to like something and then go out and kill it."....Of course, any of our lives, closely examined, can be found to hold gross inconsistencies; slaughterhouse workers, loggers, and stockbrokers are simply less insulated from them than the rest of us who benefit from their labors. It seems that in order to succeed-- or even function-- inthis world, a certain tolerance for moral and cognitive dissonance is necessary. (p.220)

I came away from reading this book with a deep and very real sense of grief for the forests we have lost. No matter where you fall on the continuum of environmental beliefs, The Golden Spruce is well worth reading for the story of the tree and of the surrounding people and lands.

New words: katabatic, internecine, silviculture

I saw David briefly two hours ago. (Da5id's thoughts on The Golden Spruce on his blog.) I forgot to give back his book. Oh well, next time, along with the Christmas thank you's from the kids that I found when I cleaned out my junk drawer.

I've passed the halfway point, reading The Reformation. Mostly interesting, with occasional patches of pretty dull. I find myself looking up names of people and of the different confessions or battles in the index to refresh my memory when I run across them again. "Who was that guy again?" or "What did those folks agree to (or not)?" After 50+ pages of more names, dates, and agreements the names, dates, and agreements I read about two chapters before start to slip. It's like trying to think through mud. But I must say that I am still enjoying the challenge. Now more than ever, since I'm halfway through.

I'm on my fourth bookmark, though half of one of those bookmarks is taken up with notes and words from The Golden Spruce.

More words from The Reformation: irenic, soteriology, conventicle, peripatetic


Sherry said...

I have read, somewhere, that cutting down the old forests is necessary and beneficial to new growth in some ways and also prevents or discourages forest fires? Is this at all true, and does the book deal with that myth or fact, whichever it is?

Thanks for linking to your review. If the book is as balanced and impartial as you say, I may have to add it to my very long reading list.

Cathy said...

Ooo, good question. Vaillant doesn't really address the argument that logging helps to prevent forest fires. Probably because the coastal rainforests are very wet, so that particular argument isn't as relevant as it might be in dryer climates.

Second thought, forest fires in general are often beneficial to the forests. The danger isn't in the loss of the forest. In fact, some varieties of pine need the heat from fires to release their seeds. It's the danger to and loss of property and timber that's at issue. Whether that justifies clear-cutting old growth depends on individual environmental philosophies...and probably whether one lives in one of the forests in question!