American Canopy is a book that explores the relationship between Americans and their trees. The book tells the story of how forests and trees have shaped American history and culture, and how humans have changed them. The author takes the reader on a journey through four centuries of history, showing the manifold ways in which trees, woodland, and wood have shaped the contours of American life and culture.
The book covers a range of topics, from the majestic white pines of New England, which were coveted by the British Crown for use as masts in navy warships, to the orange groves of California, which lured settlers west. Trees were essential to the early years of the republic and indivisible from the country’s rise as both an empire and a civilization. As symbols of liberty, community, and civilization, trees are perhaps the loudest silent figures in our country’s history.
The main themes of the book include the importance of trees in shaping American history and culture, the impact of human activity on forests and trees, and the role of trees in American identity. The book also explores the cultural significance of trees, including their use in art, literature, and folklore.
What I Liked
I love the perspective the book puts on trees as this weird natural resource that provides so much value in so many ways. And unlike other resources that provide lots of different economic value (oil, etc), trees also provide so much non-economic value. They not only influenced American economic history (we were the Saudi Arabia of Tree back in the day) but also our culture and values. Loved this book.
What I Did Not Like
This book was written for an academic, not a popular, audience. It’s very dense in parts with lots of footnotes.