Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/7/2010 (3635 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Global Forest
By Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Viking, 175 pages, $32.50
CANADIAN botanist, researcher and lecturer Diana Beresford-Kroeger practises at home what she preaches in her newest book.
Her residence near Ottawa boasts more than 100 types of trees, proof that humans can, and should, do something to restore nature's delicate balance of flora and fauna. Her other similarly themed publications include Arboretum America (2003) and A Garden for Life (2004).
Through this compelling series of 40 essays, Beresford-Kroeger builds a continuum that is at once simplistic and profound, a style, daresay, not unlike that found in the texts of mankind's various religions.
Ever respectful of religious views, she nevertheless leaves no doubt about where life in general and mankind in particular is headed given the present-day pillaging of Earth's forests.
Although scientifically based, The Global Forest also makes wide use of storytelling traditions from a variety of ancient cultures. It explores the spiritual significance of trees and reveals how earlier societies possessed knowledge about living in harmony with forest plants.
For example, she reminds readers that North American aboriginals discovered health-maintaining miracles in forest plants that became "the treasure trove of medicinal drugs used by the medicine men and women."
Superstitions about the "magic" found in trees like the hawthorn and the elderberry cross a variety of ancient cultures, magic that modern science has found comes from powerful medicinal properties.
In what can best be described as deliberately understated explanations of the complicated and miraculous world of plants, Beresford-Kroeger's essays paint an impressive picture of a vibrant, dynamic chlorophyll-filled world with 10s of thousands of species whose striving for life also enables the animal world to exist.
Eerie similarities exist within the plant and animal worlds, encompassing basic cell structure, sunlight dependency, symbiotic relationships, genetic predisposition, sexual reproduction and even communicative skills.
Readers are reminded of the one striking difference between plant and animal kingdoms. Carbon dioxide in large quantities is toxic to animals but craved by plants. Oxygen gives life to animals but is merely a superfluous gas eagerly released by plants.
This delicate relationship of gas exchange, having taken untold millennia to achieve a balance and allowing for the proliferation of various life form, may now be in jeopardy.
Since the Industrial Revolution, thanks to our reliance on fossil fuels, more and more carbon dioxide has been added to the atmosphere.
The balance is tilting precipitously close to the point where it may not be possible to restore it, Beresford-Kroeger believes.
Still, she remains optimistic. Her essays discuss bioplans that can change the look of pollution-spewing cities and wrest mega-farms and their forest-denuding practices away from their corporate owners.
This book is a must-read, especially for those who remain skeptical of the need to beware the evil twins of global warming and climate change.
Efforts to protect plant kingdoms like Manitoba's pristine boreal forest, locally dubbed "the lungs of the Earth," on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, will have found a champion for their cause.
If Canadian troubadour Bruce Cockburn's prophetic line "When a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?" hasn't resonated loud enough from this decades-old song, The Global Forest definitely will.
Joseph Hnatiuk is a retired teacher in Winnipeg.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.