Twenty years ago, David Milarch, a northern Michigan nurseryman with a penchant for hard living, had a vision: angels came to tell him that the earth was in trouble. Its trees were dying, and without them, human life was in jeopardy. The solution, they told him, was to clone the champion trees of the world — the largest, the hardiest, the ones that had survived millennia and were most resilient to climate change—and create a kind of Noah’s ark of tree genetics. Without knowing if the message had any basis in science, or why he’d been chosen for this task, Milarch began his mission of cloning the world’s great trees. Many scientists and tree experts told him it couldn’t be done, but, twenty years later, his team has successfully cloned some of the world’s oldest trees—among them giant redwoods and sequoias. They have also grown seedlings from the oldest tree in the world, the bristlecone pine Methuselah.
When New York Times
journalist Jim Robbins came upon Milarch’s story, he was fascinated
but had his doubts. Yet over several years, listening to Milarch and
talking to scientists, he came to realize that there is so much we do
not yet know about trees: how they die, how they communicate, the
myriad crucial ways they filter water and air and otherwise support
life on Earth. It became clear that as the planet changes, trees and
forest are essential to assuring its survival. The Man Who Planted Trees
is both a fascinating investigation into the world of trees and the
inspiring story of one man’s quest to help save the planet. This book’s
hopeful message of what one man can accomplish against all odds is also
a lesson about how each of us has the ability to make a difference.
Find out more about Jim Robbins and listen to the program, on the radio or online.