NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR NON-FICTION • WINNER OF THE WRITERS’ TRUST NON-FICTION PRIZE
“Absolutely spellbinding.” —The New York Times
The environmental true-crime story of a glorious natural wonder, the man who destroyed it, and the fascinating, troubling context in which this act took place.
FEATURING A NEW AFTERWORD BY THE AUTHOR
On a winter night in 1997, a British Columbia timber scout named Grant Hadwin committed an act of shocking violence in the mythic Queen Charlotte Islands. His victim was legendary: a unique 300-year-old Sitka spruce tree, fifty metres tall and covered with luminous golden needles. In a bizarre environmental protest, Hadwin attacked the tree with a chainsaw. Two days later, it fell, horrifying an entire community. Not only was the golden spruce a scientific marvel and a tourist attraction, it was sacred to the Haida people and beloved by local loggers. Shortly after confessing to the crime, Hadwin disappeared under suspicious circumstances and is missing to this day. As John Vaillant deftly braids together the strands of this thrilling mystery, he brings to life the ancient beauty of the coastal wilderness, the historical collision of Europeans and the Haida, and the harrowing world of logging—the most dangerous land-based job in North America.
The felling of a celebrated giant golden spruce tree in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands takes on a potent symbolism in this probing study of an unprecedented act of eco-vandalism. First-time author Vaillant, who originally wrote about the death of the spruce for the New Yorker, profiles the culprit, an ex-logger turned messianic environmentalist who toppled the famous tree the only one of its kind to protest the destruction of British Columbia's old-growth forest, then soon vanished mysteriously. Vaillant also explores the culture and history of the Haida Indians who revered the tree, and of the logging industry that often expresses an elegiac awe for the ancient trees it is busily clear-cutting. Writing in a vigorous, evocative style, Vaillant portrays the Pacific Northwest as a region of conflict and violence, from the battles between Europeans and Indians over the 18th-century sea otter trade to the hard-bitten, macho milieu of the logging camps, where grisly death is an occupational hazard. It is also, in his telling, a land of virtually infinite natural resources overmatched by an even greater human rapaciousness. Through this archetypal story of "people fail to see the forest for the tree," Vaillant paints a haunting portrait of man's vexed relationship with nature. Photos.
If you are from British Columbia, and the pacific northwest, you should read this. I gives a vivid decription of the founding of these areas, not to mention context for the many environmental battles taking place now, and what they mean.
I was driving a recycling truck and found this book in a recycling bin. I hopped in the passenger seat and read the entire book in one sitting. Should be required reading if you're from British Columbia.