The Tree A Natural History of What Trees Are How They Live


The Tree A Natural History of What Trees Are How They Live Why They Matter My original The Tree A Natural History of What Trees Are How They Live Why They Matter audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook ReviewerThe Tree A Natural History of What Trees Are How They Live and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge doesn’t list that it is an ordered history of trees But the lack of order makes this book less a factual text than winding inuiry If you’ve ever walked into a forest and started asking the big uestions and started answering them you’ll get a feel for how this book works At eight minutes shy of twenty hours the book is comprehensive but not cumbersome I listened to the book on my way up and down a bike trail that stretches a marathon’s distance to a 13 story bridge that spans the Des Moines River valley I started paying attention to the trees on the way up and down that trail in a different way I didn’t start recognizing trees and start spouting Latinate names but gained an appreciation for the difficulty one has in giving names to living things’ relationshipsThe book asks direct uestions with few words that lead to graduate level philosophic answers rooted in facts I’m paraphrasing but some of the uestions include How do we define a tree? Why isn’t a banana plant a tree? Why are there different names for the same tree? Tudge is both thorough and clever with his answers As I listened to the book I found myself longing to speak to other people and ask them what they thought Where textbook chapters represent pieces of a large body of information The Tree takes a single idea and expands builds and welcomes divergent ideasOne divergent idea is the move from appreciating trees as an environmentalist advocate might because humans would die without them Instead like Muir Tudge humanizes trees and their plight against other evils besides humans We don’t often think trees have natural predators Tudge adds a wisdom that trees have in working with other tree species and animal to survive Trees are cooperative dynamic and on a time scale greater than our human lifetimesShould you invest in this book? It depends on what you hope to get out of a comprehensive history If you want efficiency in learning about trees the book will disappoint It is not a textbook or guide But if you can let go of efficiency listen on headphones while walking through trees or closing your eyes in a concrete urban place you will find yourself asking to bring others into the story The book is vibrant with detail soaked in clever language and solid with a scientist’s backing In short The Tree is long on what makes audiobooks brilliant a chance to relax and just let someone else talk without wanting or trying to interruptAfter this long journey alone with The Tree you may want to take the next audiobook trek with a human I recommend Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman narrated by Mike Chamberlain or Lab Girl written and narrated by Hope JahrenNarrator ReviewBe prepared to relax there is no hurry in this Scottish narrator’s voice and he takes his commas and periods seriously At first you’ll notice the narrator his cadence contrasts that of most audiobooks but gradually he becomes a cooling tree’s shadow Most good books begin in media res the middle of the action With a book like this Enn Reitel becomes the great asset letting the listener know it is a twenty hour hike no need to sprint at the start Soon after you put the headphones in he becomes funny in an understated way hitting the scientific punchlines Tudge wrote expertly You’re walking through the forest with your new best friend upset to leave at the endAudiobook was provided for review by the publisher This is an amazing book ruined by its goofball authorTudge clearly knows a lot about trees I very much appreciate his writing this book because I feel like I understand trees a lot better having read it I learned that many species of plant have independently evolved to be a tall plant with a stick up the middle his definition of a tree in convergent evolution I learned about the practical uses of the fruit wood and chemistry of many trees I got a basic big picture view of the many different families of trees I was astounded by dizzying family relationships among plant groupsReaders should be warned that the book contains the following anti intellectual views1 Tudge rejects the RNA world hypothesis for the origin of life because RNA is a highly evolved molecule whatever that means and that RNA relies on cytoplasm and can't replicate on it's own which is false This is anti intellectual because he's rejecting consensus biology for what sounds like ideas he got from creationist propaganda2 He thinks Golden Rice is only needed because traditional agriculture has been shoved aside by high tech industrialized mono culture farming This is a cruel lie believed only by the ignorant and privileged It's slander against the poor and starving These buzzwords are lifted straight from anti technology propaganda Not only is this anti GMO narrative suarely rejected by a cursory understanding of the history of agriculture but it's also inextricably part of a greater anti GMO worldview that is entirely at odds with the scientific consensus He interjects his opinion that Organic farming is a good thing which is consistent with the anti GMO worldview and contradicted by basic economic toxicological and ecological science His political ideology is so demented he even argues that less efficient farming is a good thing because no other industry can employ as many people as farming can like that's some sort of a good thing Um pretty sure people don't want to break their back bending over a rice field their whole life It's only the single greatest achievement of humankind that people are free from subsistence farming to live the life they choose3 He distrusts genetic clocks as the final word in taxonomic classification He cites the example of the contradictory findings from DNA analysis of archaea Clearly there is a horizon for the usefulness of genetic clocks and kingdom level taxonomy is it This example in no way justifies his anti intellectual stance that science does not offer a royal road to truth First of all yes it does Science is a road to truth and it is uniue as the best process so far for finding the truth He may mean that science has limitations but those limitations are part of the process of science They aren't limitations of science the method but a description in scientific terminology of those limitations that existed in the world even before humans developed the scientific method When it comes to trees you can trust genetic clocks as the royal road to truth because all trees evolved recently compared to the horizon beyond which genetic clocks are ineffective4 He abuses his poetic license inserting pseudo philosophy and mysticism where it doesn't belong He says the old Greeks were absolutely right that the world is made of 4 elements air earth fire and water He's using this as a metaphor for trees which build their bodies from CO2 air minerals earth energy from sunlight fire and H2O water He doesn't explain its only a metaphor he just asserts the old Greeks were absolutely right and moves on It's bizarre There are other mentions of theology sprinkled around in the book and it's super creepy God doesn't belong in a non Fiction book about trees5 He goes on a full fledged anti Western tirade at one point and claims what we call progress is just Westernization and that progress is being imposed on the world by a means that seems expressly designed to undermine the well being of must of humanity Hmm I guess fuck progress then? Fuck vaccines sanitation all that progress stuff? Fuck science medicine electric lighting rule of law etc? Grab your tinfoil hats folks The world as a whole needs a different kind of governance Of course he offers no alternative Seems like the Dunning Kruger effect in action The 'reality' of which our current leaders speak of is 'cash' Talk about a Straw Man Modern Western style governments never stop interfering with people's lives Really? And how much interference would you having in your life without your Western style government keeping you safe? Career politicians are reluctant actually to govern If anyone's been paying attention to politics in the past couple years you'll notice what happens when you try to drain the swamp Power vacuums aren't automatically filled by the enlightened He's convinced traditional craftsmen are simply put out of work by industrialization I'm not sure everyone wants to be stuck doing the work of a traditional craftsman but I do know plenty of them are still around I support paying artists and many hand made things are truly art I don't know what any of this political rambling has to do with trees Authors of non fiction books should stick to their topic of expertise less they sincerely embarrass themselves like this6 Even in his area of expertise Tudge somehow thinks it's a mere historical and economic accident that agriculture is heavily focused on grains as stable crops Might it also have to do with the years and years it takes to grow trees? Also the yields in terms of calories per acre and calories per input of labor soil amenities etc? A scythe can harvest wheat What instruments harvest tree fruitsnuts en masse? He claims with no evidence whatsoever that if the same effort had been put into the walnut as has been put into wheat walnut trees would by now be taking hundreds of forms How do we know the latent genetic diversity exists in walnut trees for this to happen? There are thousands of varieties of apple But they all pretty much taste and grow like apples The difference between teosinte and corn is unlike any transformation ever seen in a tree in terms of increased yield I don't know this is impossible But I do know we need some evidence before believing this bold claims Personally I don't believe he has that evidence I think he's just bluffing Or charitably accidentally substituting his imagination for knowledge My current writing obsession is trees which of course reuires that I read about trees I found Colin Tudge's compendium to be comprehensive utterly fascinating I admit to nodding off a bit while reading the technical chapters in which he surveys trees as botanically classified into order family genus at the same time I was intrigued by many unexpected relationships among both herbaceous woody species Although Tudge doesn't mention Canadian tree ecologist Diana Beresford Krueger his comments on the necessity of intelligent forestry sustainable tree cropping past future their foundational importance to human culture sustenance on Planet Earth reminded me of Beresford Krueger's The Global Forest another favorite read of recent times Along with another recent read Charles Mann's 1491 The Tree also caused me to pause reconsider received notions of both wilderness the human shaping management of what we call Nature I recalled a comment I read long ago either one made by Joseph Chilton Pierce or Joseph Campbell that humans' natural home is the Garden not the Wilderness Pushing that conclusion even further I've had to consider the possibility that wilderness may be mythical than natural At the same time it is important to acknowledge that it is trees not human beings that are ultimately controlling all life on land It's not as good as the cover made it out to be and it's certainly not a natural history classic but it's a fun well written overview Part of the problem I think is that the task that Tudge set out for himself in surveying all the world's trees is so vast that either the book needed to be much longer or the project needed to be toned down considerably There's just not enough detail for this to be really excellent Who doesn't like trees? Despite that popularity it is easy to have a rather lopsided understanding of why they matter Global warming is constantly in the news so it is commonly known that trees seuester carbon and so have a beneficial cooling effect on the earth We know that the roots of trees hold soil in place and that trees can absorb an enormous uantity of water So they have a moderating effect on variations of weather But how many people can identify all the trees found in a local park?That's a big change from the past when so many trades involved trees and their by products that lots of people could identify many species and describe their best uses Colin Tudge's book describes many uses of individual species of trees and also explains their biology and natural history their cultivation and their cultural significance Along the way we get an armchair tour through anatomy genetics taxonomy ecology forestry practices economy and nearly everything else having to do with trees He answers some uestions that some people may not have thought to ask For example why are there relatively few species of trees in a northern forest especially when compared to the variation found in the tropics? Greater tropical variation in species happens in all other kingdoms too But while you may not ask it in that form you may have looked at a piece of furniture at Ikea and wondered what on earth it was made of assuming not of plastic There are kinds of trees than most of us can possibly imagine and now they're all being used for one thing or another The products are shipped all over the placeThe book is organized into four sections although the fourth is really an epilogue The first describes what separates trees from other plants so taxonomy and their physiology and evolution The second section is a one hundred forty page tour de force description of all the trees left in the world divided up by their taxonomies In the third section Tudge describe ecology and reproduction including the many ways that people have inadvertently or purposefully screwed that up for trees usually by transporting competitors or pests into an ecological system In the fourth section Tudge demonstrates two things first that trees interact deeply with political and economic outcomes and second that he is happy to oversimplify and generalize such issues to arrive at some weirdly new age happy talk For exampleI don't believe the world can get significantly better if we leave politics to career politicians That is not what democracy means I also nurse the conceit for which there is abundant evidence that human beings are basically goodIt seems to follow that if only democracy can be made to work if the will of humanity as a whole can prevail then the world could be a far better place that it could after all come through these next few difficult decadesAnd so he joins Einstein in demonstrating that some scientists shouldn't uit their day jobs to seek elected office Despite that the book is terrific and even the fourth section has lots of interesting if utopian perspectives Read it as you long for spring Colin Tudge attracted my attention for having written several books about diverse subjects I am fascinated by not the least of which is trees In 'The Tree' Tudge lives up to that promise proving himself a very likable man who thinks about the world in many ways similarly to the way I do This is in general a boon but can be a downfall The book has no real goal no thesis no object It is a well organized series of writings about the trees of the world including explanations of many facets of what it means to be a tree portraits of individual trees and a broad survey of all the tree phyla in the modern world This middle section seems to have been largely a mistake The rest of the book proceeds in narrative form through a number of very interesting aspects of the ecology physiology evolution and human relevance of trees The phylogeny however stifles the narrative voice and forces boring listing I didn't read it suffice it to say so I perhaps shouldn't knock it too much But it reminded me in format much of The Kingdom Fungi which fell prey to the same impulse The impulse is noble and I share it rather than discuss the variety of trees in the world in a series of random groupings it should be done phylogenetically to emphasize the relationships among trees And if you're going about it phylogenetically you might as well include all the major phyla of trees But how can you provide anything very interesting about all of them and present all this knowledge in a meaningful way? The answer seems to be that you can't really This kind of knowledge broad but particular of the whole group of things we call trees must be earned through a lifetime of observation a lifetime of meeting trees It can't be condensed and transferred in even 150 pages And it most certainly can't be done without pictures This is perhaps what killed the middle of the book there are no pictures to give the reader a taste of the phyla described The rest of the book which I read entirely was great as I've said Tudge includes a lot of details but condenses them into a form that is intuitive and dense with information without becoming slow to read Much that could have been included was left out a in depth look at the relationship between trees and humans in history a la A Forest Journey The Story of Wood and Civilization or detailed coverage of tree ecology focusing on things like mycorrhizae or adeuate coverage of tree physiology including some nice diagrams like Botany for Gardeners I could think of dozens of others The book is very long and uite valuable as it is but such topics would have better suited Tudge's style and I think the style of books other than field guides and coffee table books in general than what he chose to do in the middle section of the bookI very much appreciate the fact that Tudge chose to close the book with a serious look at the relationship between the social structure of our civilization and the ecological health of the planet principally seen in this from the point of view of trees While the fact that the treatment of the issue is necessarily superficial it acknowledges there is a very big problem in the world of trees and that it is rooted in economics and culture Tudge emphasizes uite astutely that if that problem can be 'solved' then many other problems will be solved along with it exploitation of workers the indigenous and poor nations; the food issue; the energy issue; the decline of coherent local communities; etc It would have been easy for Tudge or his editors to say 'let this be a happy book about trees; don't bring up all those controversial bad things save that for another book' That he did not indicates some extra goodness in his soil typo? Hmmmmmm I have mixed feelings about this book There is a lot of information about Trees and the writing style isn't bad but the middle section is rather tedious The book has a few black and white sketchesillustrations of trees My edition of the book ISBN 9780307395399 also has very thin pages maybe recycled and a flimsy cover If you are buying this you may want to get a different edition or the hardcover versionThe book is divided into partsPart 1 What is a Tree? Explains what a tree is and its structure This section is very interesting Part 2 All the Trees in the World Description of tree classification and trees Long and tedious Reminds me of a botany text book without all the coloured photographsPart 3 The Life of Trees Describes how trees function includes photosynthesis water transfer from roots to leaves nutrients in the soil micorrhizae growth hormone function reproduction pollination symbiosis photoperiodism and biogeagraphy This is also a very interesting section that is nicely explained the best part of the book in my opinion Part 4 Trees and Us Concluding section that provides food for thought about our relationship with trees and the earthIf all you are after is how trees function then I recommend Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon Botany for Gardeners Otherwise The Tree by Colin Tudge is a nice addition to the reference library There are redwoods in California that were ancient by the time Columbus first landed and pines still alive that germinated around the time humans invented writing There are Douglas firs as tall as skyscrapers and a banyan tree in Calcutta as big as a football fieldFrom the tallest to the smallest trees inspire wonder in all of us and in The Tree Colin Tudge travels around the world—throughout the United States the Costa Rican rain forest Panama and Brazil India New Zealand China and most of Europe—bringing to life stories and facts about the trees around us how they grow old how they eat and reproduce how they talk to one another and they do and why they came to exist in the first place He considers the pitfalls of being tall; the things that trees produce from nuts and rubber to wood; and even the complicated debt that we as humans owe themTudge takes us to the in flood when the water is deep enough to submerge the forest entirely and fish feed on fruit while river dolphins race through the canopy He explains the “memory” of a tree how those that have been shaken by wind grow thicker and sturdier while those attacked by pests grow smaller leaves the following year; and reveals how it is that the same trees found in the United States are also native to China but not EuropeFrom tiny saplings to centuries old redwoods and desert palms from the backyards of the American heartland to the rain forests of the and the bamboo forests Colin Tudge takes the reader on a journey through history and illuminates our ever present but often ignored companions A blend of history science philosophy and environmentalism The Tree is an engaging and elegant look at the life of the tree and what modern research tells us about their future If you love trees this book is a must read for it will astound you This fascinating book uses trees to illuminate evolution and the ways the life works in the world so in the end you learn a lot than just about treesColin Tudge also teaches us about the incredible strength and complexity of trees We learn about how trees communicate with each other and interact with other plants and animals in their environment He tells how they cope with adversity cooperate and even help each otherHuman beings have worshiped our own great brains and driving ambitions but look at what we have done to our planet over our 50000 years of existence Trees build soil improve rain and water ecologies and provide habitat for hundreds of species Perhaps we need to refocus our attention on nature on how it builds and heals itself?The Tree is a wonderful way to learn about this essential group of species with fascination respect and humor Most of this book was a stamp collector's approach to natural history the book euivalent of a tiny old museum whose glass cased curios are carefully labeled with their Latin binomials but otherwise provided with little context and even less narrative Except instead of actually seeing the interesting wood or majestic growth form or whatever of the trees you get the author's tell don't show assurances that he personally saw this or that tree once and enjoyed the experience If you slog through that there's a very good chapter on fig wasps Maybe just skip to that part

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