RIDGELY, MD—May 4, 2017
Every living being is not only sustained by biological connections but is made from these relationships. In his newest book, The Songs of Trees, Pulitzer Prize finalist David Haskell visits with nature’s most magnificent networkers—trees—and shows how this networked view of life enriches our understanding of biology, human nature and ethics. On Thursday, June 8, join the author for a discussion of how biological networks surround all species, including humans. Sponsored by Adkins Arboretum, the program begins at 4 p.m. at the Academy Art Museum in Easton.Haskell’s work integrates scientific, literary and contemplative studies of the natural world. Chronicling his year’s observation of one square meter of forest, his 2012 book The Forest Unseen was instrumental in galvanizing a renewed interest in observing and documenting nature among citizen scientists and nature lovers. A New York Times profile says of Haskell, “[he] thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.”
In The Songs of Trees, Haskell brings his powers of observation to a dozen trees around the world, exploring their connections with webs of fungi, bacterial communities, cooperative and destructive animals, and other plants. An Amazonian ceibo tree reveals the rich ecological turmoil of the tropical forest, along with threats from expanding oil fields. Thousands of miles away, the roots of a balsam fir in Canada survive in poor soil only with the help of fungal partners. These links are nearly two billion years old: the fir’s roots cling to rocks containing fossils of the first networked cells.
By unearthing charcoal left by Ice Age humans and petrified redwoods in the Rocky Mountains, Haskell shows how Earth’s climate has emerged from exchanges among trees, soil communities and the atmospheres—and how humans have transformed these networks by tending some forests but destroying others. Haskell argues that when we listen to trees, nature’s greatest connectors, we learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance and beauty.
Haskell is a professor of biology and environmental studies at the University of the South and a Guggenheim Fellow. His classes have received national attention for the innovative ways in which they combine scientific exploration, contemplative practice and action in the community. In 2009, the Carnegie and CASE Foundations named him Professor of the year for Tennessee, an award given to college professors who have achieved national distinction and whose work shows “extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching.” Along with his scholarly research, he has published essays, op-eds and poetry.
The program is $15 for Arboretum members and $20 for non-members. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Advance registration is requested at adkinsarboretum.org or by calling 410-634-2847, ext. 0.