Green is Timeless

This photo by Darius Kinsey taken around 1900 in Washington state shows what a cedar can do when it's got the right conditions.

What could be better than planting a tree to celebrate Earth Day?

Planting two trees? Perhaps.

But if you really want to take the long view, you may wish to follow the trail blazed by the dedicated folks who manage the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. These guys are serious about replanting the magnificent trees that have been lost over the past couple of centuries due to over-enthusiastic logging and other human development pressures.

Today being Earth Day, the Archive made headlines by launching its Global Earth Day Planting Event, the result of decades of work cloning seedlings from some of the last remaining cells of trees such as the giant sequoias and redwoods of the great western forests. Some of these trees were thousands of years old when they were cut down.

The clones are being planted in nine locations: Germany, Ireland, Wales, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and California, areas selected to increase the trees’ chances for survival in the face of anticipated increasing stress from global warming.

It’s a bold and optimistic program. To plant trees of any kind requires a kind of faith. To plant a tree with the capacity to live several thousand years requires vision and optimism and a certain generosity of spirit.

As Nelson Henderson famously wrote: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

Of course, in that sense, a tree represents a lot more than a spot of shade. But if global warming lives up to the scientific predictions, our great-grandchildren may be truly grateful for any long shadows we leave behind.