Friday, August 12, 2016
Tree Hugging & Barkskins
I have written often about the significance of trees in the bible. Early in Genesis we read about a tree of good and evil, and at the conclusion of Revelation we are given a vision of a city adorned with trees. Jesus likely slept beneath the canopy of olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane and he was "nailed upon the tree," a way of speaking of the crucifixion.
Canada is a nation of trees and even larger centres such as Toronto and Montreal and London, Ontario are remarkable for their urban forests.
I have nearly completed Barkskins the historical novel by Annie Proulx, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Shipping News. I read The Shipping News on the "bridge" of a saltbox house on Change Islands, Newfoundland, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Barkskins tells the rather grim story of the insatiable hunger for timber in North America and other parts of the planet. While reviews haven't been all that kind, one calling Barkskins a jeremiad soaked in acid rain, it reminds us of the assumption that the forests of this continent were considered inexhaustible and expendable, so wantonly exploited. Living, breathing entities were and still are reduced to a commodity measured in board feet.
On our way through rural New Brunswick a couple of weeks ago we had a close encounter with a road-hogging pulp truck piled with forest plunder. It was a reminder that beyond the "beauty strip" of trees lining highways in a number of provinces there are large clearcuts which in the aftermath become plantations of trees rather than diverse forests.
At 700 or so pages Barkskins requires some literal and figurative heavy lifting, but as a proud tree-hugger I'm glad to have persevered.
Anyone else read it? Are you inclined to wade in?