back arrowView show

The Secret Life of Trees

Episode description

Henry David Thoreau founded our literature of trees, glorying in the Eastern White Pine as the “emblem of my life,” to stand for “the West, the wild.” His friend Emerson, one step closer, felt an “occult relation” between trees and himself. “They nod to me, and I to them,” he said. Now comes Richard Powers, novelist of science and astonishment, taking up that almost speaking connection “from the standpoint of the trees,” from the teeming crown of a giant Redwood, ever in motion, 200 feet or 20 stories above ground. In their own fight for survival, trees have their own way of knowing they’re key to our human hope of squeaking through the crash of species on a wounded planet Earth.

How quaint of Noah, it seems now, that when the world was ending the first time, he saved the animals, two by two, to regenerate the earth—but left the trees and plants to die. We begin to see the egotism of a species learning very late in the day how vanishing trees used to suck up the carbon and synthesize the oxygen that sustains us free-loaders on the life of trees. The decorated novelist Richard Powers is back with the trees’ side of a hard story.

Powers is the artist who keeps reinventing himself in difficult trades—brain science and modern musical composition before this. And now: The Overstory, about Trees: Lean into the trunk of a pine tree or an oak, a beech or an alder and listen, Rick Powers is telling us: if our minds were a little greener, we’d learn that trees created our soil and cycle our water, make the weather, build the air—and that the tree population we found on this planet is 95 percent gone. We are back in school with Richard Powers after a 5-year interval—this time in a living museum of trees from ancient times and all the world, the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.

We’re joined by Ned Friedman, director of the Arboretum, and the naturalist Diana Beresford-Kroeger, star of the new documentary Call of the Forest.

The post The Secret Life of Trees appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

episodes iconEpisodes

Black Film, White Voice

August 16th, 2018


A new wave of black arts has surfaced in the mainstream of American popular culture. It’s not your standard entertainment, and not “art for art’s sake” either. On big screens and tiny ones, in music and poetry, the ne…

V. S. Naipaul’s ‘Gloomy Clarity’ about Africa, and Himself (rebroadcast)

August 12th, 2018

This interview with V.S. Naipaul was released October 25, 2010. We are re-posting the podcast on the occasion of the author’s death Saturday.

The Shostakovich story — man and music in the apocalypse of world war and Cold War — seems to get more frightfully irresistible with every remembrance, every new CD in the

The Siberian Candidate

July 20th, 2018


Calling on the spies we know best – all of them fictional – to explain the Helsinki summit: If it was spy-craft in plain sight, what would James Bond or Jason Bourne have seen that we didn’t?  What would Georg…

The Grenfell Tragedy

July 13th, 2018


Grenfell Tower was that giant pillar of public housing on the West side of London that went up in flames a year ago.  Suddenly it was a smoky chemical torch in the night, fueled by the building’s own flammable insulat…

Bill Banfield’s Griot Songs

July 6th, 2018


Your friends and other experts will tell you the songs and sounds that are new and hot. What the music makers are happier telling you is: what’s old, what abides, what is true, what connects and how they got it. Bill …

Molly Crabapple’s Cosmopolitan Colors

June 29th, 2018


Listen fast, podcast people, because the beloved artist-satirist-global muckraker Molly Crabapple talks fast, the same way she draws and paints a sort of carnival of conflict out there: in Syria,…

Our Borderline Disorder

June 29th, 2018


The shock of migrant kids-in-cages on our border with Mexico is surfacing tough questions if you’re willing to look back at our history and ahead to an emerging world disorder. The issues run deep: why borders in the…

Two Guys Walk Into a Summit in Singapore

June 15th, 2018


From “fire and fury” to a “terrific relationship” in less than a year sound like a happy turn in the Trump-Kim dance around nukes and North Korea. Better news coming is implied in the Singapore summit: an end of the N…

Loading ...

Download the RadioPublic app for
 FREE and never miss an episode.

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store

We've launched an equity crowdfunding campaign!

Learn more and invest today.