Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park, Hoopla, California

The Man Who Planted Trees

A Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees, and a Plan to Save the Planet

By Jim Robbins

The cast of characters reads like a science fantasy novel: Methuselah, Twin Stem, Old Blue, Gramma, Stagg and Waterfall. But these names aren’t the names of hobbits and elves; they’re behemoth trees — Champion Trees.

The Man Who Planted Trees chronicles the adventures of a veritable Noah of the tree world, David Milarch, a Michigan nurseryman who, following a near-death experience, began a quest to locate and save genetic material from some of the oldest and healthiest specimens of trees. Thus the Champion Tree Project was born, with a goal of cloning the Champion of each of 826 species of trees in the United States in order to save our forests and ecosystem — as well as being a hopeful lesson about how each of us has the ability to make a difference.

The Man Who Planted Trees
Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens at Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park, Hoopla, California

Author Jim Robbins experienced the devastation of dead and dying trees and its effect on his own Montana environment. Robbins, writing of his own awakening, realized “that North America’s cordillera, the mountains that extend from Alaska to northern New Mexico, and that include my patch of forest, were ground zero for the largest die-off of forests in recorded history.” While Robbins’s tone is urgent, it doesn’t compromise his crystal-clear science. His descriptions highlight the interdependence of trees not only with their immediate surroundings — the rhizosphere, “the vast complex root system and the soil and the microorganisms affecting, and affected by, the roots” — but also with the planet as a whole, explaining the vital work performed by trees in cleaning pollutants from the air and absorbing some of the extra carbon that’s throwing off our climate’s balance, causing global warming. And he describes how trees serve as guardians of our fresh water systems.

Robbins’s approach is a solid counterweight to Milarch’s unique, and equally crystal clear, spiritual vision. He followed Milarch from one giant tree to another: sequoias on the coast of California, white oaks in Maryland, bristlecone pines in Colorado, a rare forest of dawn redwoods in China, stinking cedars in Florida and ancient yews in Europe. The sheer size of these trees brought awe; coupled with extensive research and interviews with leading environmental scientists, Robbins soon came to appreciate Milarch’s view. Because trees create oxygen, filter water and also can cleanse the atmosphere of large amounts of pollutants, the planting of trees “may be the single most important ecotechnology that we have to put the broken pieces of our planet back together.”

“When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second best time? Today.”

Chinese proverb

The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees, and a Plan to Save the Planet, Jim Robbins, Random House, 2015, 256 pages, $17.99, ISBN-13: 978-0812981292 paperback

Trawler passes Portland Head Light

Supertrawlers and Trump: Scraping the Bottom

On June 5, 2020 President Trump unveiled the decision to ease protections for Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England, opening it to commercial fishing. Trump made the announcement in Bangor, Maine at a roundtable discussion with commercial fisheries companies and Maine’s former Republican governor, Paul LePage. Maine's Governor Janet Mills was not invited to the event.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument comprises nearly 5,000 square miles of protected area that contains endangered right whales and sensitive deep sea corals. It has been closed to most commercial fishing since 2016. Trump called the existing regulations "ridiculous" and "terrible," reported WBUR Earthwhile.

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An aggressive approach to defeating illegal fishing vessels

Catch Me If You Can: The Global Pursuit of a Fugitive Ship

The Indonesian government takes an aggressive approach to defeating illegal fishing vessels, claiming to have sunk hundreds of such ships in its waters. One official’s comment: “They’re very … efficient … with law enforcement.” Photo by Januar/AFP via Getty Images

Summarized from an article by Sarah Tory. Published in Hakai Magazine online, March 3, 2020. Read the full story here.

In a chase that rivals a James Bond adventure, a notorious illegal fishing vessel, the STS-50, is pursued by the Ocean Warrior. The Ocean Warrior is a sleek $8 million vessel, custom built by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for running down Japanese whaling ships.

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Sea kayaking coaches paddling back from Ram Light in Casco Bay

The Power of Blue

With excerpts from Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness, by Elle Hunt, published in The Guardian, November 3, 2019.

In recent years, stressed-out urbanites have been seeking refuge in green spaces, for which the proven positive impacts on physical and mental health are often cited in arguments for more inner-city parks and accessible woodlands. The benefits of “blue space” – the sea and coastline, but also rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains – are less well publicized, yet the science has been consistent for at least a decade: being by water is good for body and mind.

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Dungeness Crabs

Fishermen Sue Big Oil For Its Role In Climate Change

Excerpted from an article by Alastair Bland, published by NPR, The Salt.

Featured photo Michael Melford/Getty Images.

On November 14, fishermen in California and Oregon filed suit against 30 companies, mainly oil producers, contending that the fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for recent warming-related damages to the West Coast’s prized Dungeness crab fishery.

The fishermen’s lawsuit appears to be the first time food producers have sued the fossil fuel industry for allegedly harming the environment.

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