THE WILD TREES

A STORY OF PASSION AND DARING

Preston takes a break from nasty viruses (The Demon in the Freezer, 2002, etc.) to provide a firsthand account of climbing some of the world’s tallest trees.

His tale begins in 1987 with a group of college students visiting one of California’s state forests to climb a tall redwood. One of them, Steve Sillet, became a botanist studying the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, where redwoods and the related giant sequoias are the dominant species. Despite relentless clear-cutting in the years before they were protected by law, several California redwoods rise above 360 feet; they are the largest and possibly the oldest living things on Earth. Preston, who met Sillet after doing some climbing in Eastern forests using techniques learned in an arborist school in Georgia, quickly found that redwoods present an entirely different challenge. Tree trunks often rise 200 feet before putting out branches strong enough to hold a rope. Coached by Sillet and his wife, Marie Antoine, the author began to learn special techniques for scaling redwoods and eventually joined their expedition to climb tall eucalyptus trees in Australia. Ascending the redwoods was a revelation. The rainforest’s crown supports entire ecologies found nowhere else: lichens, birds, reptiles, even whole trees of other species growing in the soil that accumulates on the redwoods’ high branches. The trees are constantly growing and changing, and a large tree’s slow death (often after more than 2,000 years) causes radical changes in the forest around it. The book ends with an August 2006 expedition in collaboration with redwood enthusiast Michael Taylor during which was found a new record-holder for the world’s highest tree. In between, Preston’s text covers everything from rainforest ecology to the lives of the scientists and dedicated amateurs who study it, with a strong emphasis on the sheer beauty of the forest canopy as seen up close.

Enthralling.

Pub Date: April 17, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-6489-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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