This blog has been created to reflect on the various topics that I write about as a journalist, mostly science and environmental issues, for the New York Times and other publications. We are in a time of unprecedented ecological problems, and the clock is ticking. Someone once described themselves as “an intellectual pessimist, but a glandular optimist.” That describes me pretty much as well. Most of the reporting and writing I do here then doesn’t flinch from a look at the severity of the problems, but also includes an optimistic eye toward solutions to those problems. These posts move beyond fact based reporting, to try to connect dots, interpret what is happening, offer some informed speculation and ruminations. I am not a scientist, but I have the benefit of seeing what’s going on in a lot of different places, a big picture view. Science is vital but I am convinced that science alone can’t save us – it is too specialized, slow, often unimaginative, captive of moneyed interests and otherwise limited. We also need to harness creative imaginations and the human spirit and work outside the box.
My latest book, The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, is where these first blogging efforts begin. Despite the fact that trees and forests are vital to life on the planet, science knows very little about them and over the last few centuries we have unthinkingly decimated them. I believe and spell out in the book why one of the big solutions to the problems we face is the planting of trees. There is almost no environmental problem that can’t be helped by the planting of more trees. In fact don’t think of them as trees – think of them as a sophisticated living eco-technology. No human design could come close to the elegant and efficient design of a tree, and accomplish those things that trees accomplish. They give us clean water, clean air, provide wildlife habitat, food, shelter, medicine, fertilizers, and much, much more. They are not, in short, just a stick in the ground with leaves — they create and perpetuate the conditions for life to exist and flourish.