The Last Leaves

The Day When Forests
Won’t Have Any Trees

Climate emergency, – a man-made executioner we fear so much that we’ve sent our own children to do battle with – has always had a fierce opponent, even before it needed one: trees. Living beings that ushered us to the present, they’ve got all it takes to save our future.
As long as they’re standing, that is. But stood have many, for millennia. As we see forests, we miss what makes them one. Trees may be downed, but nothing kills their gift for being reborn. The history of the world is told by thousand rings inside their girth.
They tower and endure. They come as big as cathedrals, and as old as a religion. Life travels from roots to high up branches, as they hang on to Earth as its own giant limbs. Trees have been blowing oxygen down our lungs for ages; time to fight fire and scarcity to pay back our dues.
Through their rings, they tell a story of damage humans have inflicted on climate and natural resources, going back centuries. For 300 million years, they’ve been withstanding every era – and unlike with dinosaurs, not even catastrophic asteroid collisions did they in.
But now, our predatory drive is catching up with trees too. That’s why the young is so mad, and the old is none the wise preventing them from grabbing the helm out of our incapable hands and saving the planet already. They were unfairly pushed into this, and are better off not counting on us.

Compared to trees’ estimated appearance on the planet, Mathuselah, the thick twisty Pinus Longaeva that’s been in living in California for 4,850 years, doesn’t seem that impressive. But it is indeed older than the Egyptian pyramids, and yes, Christianity itself.
It certainly predates the biblical figure it’s named after too; that Mathuselah supposedly lived a mere 969 years, but we know how the good book often plays loose with facts and numbers. In any case, the tree is real, even if its exact location is secret to prevent vandalism.
In some ways, it’s even more real than other popular California residents: Joshua trees. That’s because, they’re not trees at all (more)
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but a plant species of the genus Yucca. Think about that the next time you’re having a delicious fried yucca at your local latino joint.

Trees can track the development and culture of the people they’re surrounded by, even when the threat of logging or vandalism are not a concern. That’s the case of the Patriarca da Floresta, the majestic Cariniana Legalis living for some 3,000 years in Brazil.
Or Florida’s Senator, the largest bald cypress in the world, killed by a fire in 2012. At 38m, it was not as tall as the Brazilian Jequitiba Rosa, 49m, but older by 500 centuries. Its fate haunts old trees, even when the fire was not caused by a camper, as in its case.
By far, men is the biggest threat to these creatures that took virtually the entire extent of the human experience on Earth to grow that tall. They may be felled by factors natural or otherwise. Most likely, though, it’s be something toxic fed and triggered by us.

At almost 100m high, there are a number of impressive stats about the Centurion, in Australia. After all, no other tree can claim to be the world’s tallest Eucalyptus. And not many have their own Facebook page, for Aussies to brag about one of their national treasuries.
But if you want sheer height, that’s not good enough; for Hyperion, a coast redwood Sequoia Sempervirens, stands at 115,92m, making it the world’s tallest tree. It’s also a relatively young tall and dark one, at ‘only’ six centuries of winters, springs, summers, and autumns.
In its secret location at California’s Redwood National Park, it’s tended to by a court of three other giants: Helios, 114.1m; Icarus, 113.1m; and Daedalus, 110.8m. It’s quite a fitting assembly of notable specimens, living happily together since the Renaissance.

It’s quite possible that, among India’s 900 million voters who’ve just secured Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s another four years in power, was Jadav ‘Mulai’ Payeng. Specially if estimates show that the P.M. got elected by votes from the country’s poorest citizens.
Regardless his political inklings, though, during the past 40 years, he’s created a miracle: he planted a forest in Majuli, the world’s largest river island. And hasn’t stopped laying seeds on the ground, where he also raises cattle that sometimes are eaten by tigers.
Thus, his life, in the confines of Asia, may have more excitement, and above all, meaning, than many, who sit at home and complain. Or write long posts about quasi-unknown heroes. Think about that the next time you chew up your curated veggies, and watch virals on your phone.

One thought on “The Last Leaves

  1. unclerave says:

    Reblogged this on Unclerave's Wordy Weblog and commented:
    Let’s hear it – NOT clear it – for the trees! We need them more than they need us. Planting new ones is all well and good, but we need old growth trees more than some silly little saplings. If more states – or the whole country – legalizes hemp and marijuana we would not have to chop down another tree for paper! — YUR
    PS. No, I do not – and likely would not – partake in the ingesting of marijuana. — YUR


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