A comprehensive look at the trees of American cities.
Though Jonnes’ (Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count, 2009, etc.) title may not pique great interest, this book deserves it; indeed, no one who has loved a single tree will be able to set it aside. Scientific without being tedious and political only in the sense of our responsibility to and respect for nature (or lack thereof), the narrative is sure to fascinate nature lovers and natural scientists alike. In her study of who brought new species from distant lands and, more importantly, shared them with such prolific collectors as Thomas Jefferson and William Hamilton, she traces the important scientific studies from Colonial times to the present. Tree lovers through history are as varied as the trees—e.g., the 18-year-old student who founded TreePeople in the early 1970s or John Hansel, the director of the Elm Research Institute. In quantifying the healthful effects of trees on the human environment, scientists have measured actual energy and dollar savings, as trees absorb rainwater and often save sewers from overflowing. They also affect air quality, save energy, cool temperatures, and absorb surface runoff. Jonnes diligently follows the work in large cities, especially Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, where the Climate Project established that “trees should be regarded as essential green infrastructure.” Unfortunately, the useful scientific information went mostly to waste when politicians lost interest. Equally interesting, and certainly frightening, is the author’s coverage of significant threats to trees, including Dutch elm disease and the emerald ash borer. The damage by these blights has become so bad that clear-cutting is often the only way to control it. Thankfully, important work has been done to improve better strains that withstand the attacks, but the effects have been widespread, and replacement plantings are insufficient.
A lovingly written book that should appeal to most city dwellers and all tree lovers.