The Overstory

Na túto knižku treba trpezlivosť. Začína koreňmi – krátkymi akoby poviedkami, ktoré postupne predstavia ľudské postavy (môže mať kniha deväť hlavných postáv?). Potom príde kmeň, kde sa príbehy postáv poprepletajú, vyrastú do koruny. A na koniec padajú semená. A celý čas sú tam ešte stromy, veľa stromov.

Nálada je taká optimisticko-pesimistická. Teda pre ľudí vpodstate len pesimistická a trúchlivá. Ale na stromy, aj keď to v čase príbehu nie je veľmi ružové, čaká budúcnosť. 

Understory je po anglicky lesný podrast – všetko to, čo rastie v lese pod korunami stromov, v knižke sa viackrát spomína. Overstory – koruny stromov, je priamo len v názve knihy a aj to pravdepodobne kvôli slovnej hračke. Všeliakých viac-či-menej zjavných referencií sa nájde tiež dosť: na Loraxa, ktorý hovorí za stromy, na Annu Kareninu a (ne)šťastie rodín, na Wohllebenov Secret Life of Trees… veľa som si určite ani nevšimla. 

Kniha o stromoch a čase, ktorá je vlastne o ľuďoch, taká, čo dáva viac otázok ako odpovedí. Miestami trochu pátosu, miestami príliš hustý podrast, ale celkovo veľmi dobre napísaná. 

Your kind never sees us whole. You miss the half of it, and more. There’s always as much below ground as above. That’s the trouble with people, their root problem.

thoughts he doesn’t know how to have.

‘When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.’
‘When is the next best time? Now.’

The greatest flaw of the species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth. Single biggest influence on what a body will or won’t believe is what nearby bodies broadcast over the public band.

Other creatures—bigger, slower, older, more durable—call the shots, make the weather, feed creation, and create the very air.

I hear myself best when I’m sleeping.

What do stories do? They kill us a bit and make us change.

Righteousness makes Mimi nuts. She has always been allergic to people with conviction. But more than she hates conviction, she hates sneaky power.

You’re studying what makes some people take the living world seriously when the only real thing for everyone else is other people. You should be studying everyone who thinks that only people matter.

The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story

She could tell them about a simple machine needing no fuel and little maintenance, one that steadily sequesters carbon, enriches the soil, cools the ground, scrubs the air, and scales easily to any size. A tech that copies itself and even drops food for free. A device so beautiful it’s the stuff of poems. If forests were patentable, she’d get an ovation.

Say the planet is born at midnight and it runs for one day. First there is nothing. Two hours are lost to lava and meteors. Life doesn’t show up until three or four a.m. Even then, it’s just the barest self-copying bits and pieces. From dawn to late morning—a million million years of branching—nothing more exists than lean and simple cells. Then there is everything. Something wild happens, not long after noon. One kind of simple cell enslaves a couple of others. Nuclei get membranes. Cells evolve organelles. What was once a solo campsite grows into a town. The day is two-thirds done when animals and plants part ways. And still life is only single cells. Dusk falls before compound life takes hold. Every large living thing is a latecomer, showing up after dark. Nine p.m. brings jellyfish and worms. Later that hour comes the breakout—backbones, cartilage, an explosion of body forms. From one instant to the next, countless new stems and twigs in the spreading crown burst open and run. Plants make it up on land just before ten. Then insects, who instantly take to the air. Moments later, tetrapods crawl up from the tidal muck, carrying around on their skin and in their guts whole worlds of earlier creatures. By eleven, dinosaurs have shot their bolt, leaving the mammals and birds in charge for an hour. Somewhere in that last sixty minutes, high up in the phylogenetic canopy, life grows aware. Creatures start to speculate. Animals start teaching their children about the past and the future. Animals learn to hold rituals. Anatomically modern man shows up four seconds before midnight. The first cave paintings appear three seconds later. And in a thousandth of a click of the second hand, life solves the mystery of DNA and starts to map the tree of life itself. By midnight, most of the globe is converted to row crops for the care and feeding of one species. And that’s when the tree of life becomes something else again. That’s when the giant trunk starts to teeter.

Life has a way of talking to the future. It’s called memory.

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