The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant

In the main, I’d have to say that this is not a book to be read in a day. Not to mean that I’m not glad I read it, but it’s heavy history and doesn’t lend itself to a single sitting. THE GOLDEN SPRUCE is a documentary piece, spanning centuries and encompassing the European discovery and dominance of the Northwest coast of British Columbia. Fur-trading led to a logging industry that both developed and ravaged the continent, and basically eradicated a civilization. The title refers to a mutant Sitka spruce tree, sacred to the native people, and a rarity, if not a singularity, to botanists. At 165 feet tall, it probably germinated around 1700, and it’s luminous golden yellow branches and were unrepeated in its perfection – anywhere in the world as far as we know. In January of 1997, Grant Hadwin, a logger with a history of mental health issues, took a chainsaw to The Golden Spruce, nominally in protest of logging pollution and deforestation, and primed it to fall, which it did two days later.

We generally think of rare specimens of life as animals – an albino gorilla, a two-headed turtle, a bearded-lady. Vaillant does a great job conveying the unique aura, both literal and mythical, around this tree. The parts of the story that covered this act of eco-terrorism and Hadwin’s mysterious disappearance are riveting.

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