BOOK REVIEW: Lynda V. Mapes’ ‘Witness Tree’ gives you new eyes to look at the world around you

If humanity doesn’t immediately reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other climate-warming air pollutants, global temperatures could rise by as much as 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most pessimistic forecasts.

For some reason, this knowledge isn’t as frightening to us as the prospect of a Cold War-style apocalyptic thermonuclear exchange — in the same way that the inevitability of lung cancer from smoking tobacco isn’t as frightening as the idea that, hypothetically, electronic cigarettes might have a one in 100,000 chance of blowing off their vaper’s head. Our risk assessment faculties aren’t adapted to gradual but certain peril the way they ought to be. So here we are.

In that context comes Lynda V. Mapes’ book Witness Tree. The Seattle Times reporter spent a year studying a particular hundred-odd-year-old red oak in north-central Massachusetts while researching its surroundings, using it as a lens to view the effects of global warming and ecology in general.  Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Lynda V. Mapes’ ‘Witness Tree’ gives you new eyes to look at the world around you