Trees for Life: Canada and Australia

Michael Christie and Sophie Cunningham.

Writers’ Week, Festival of Arts, Adelaide, Australia  – Tuesday 3rd March 2020.

Book design by W.H. Chong

Connections Sophie Cunningham makes. Richard Powers, the American author of Overstory quotes Australia’s First Nations Kakadu Elder, Big Bill Neidjie. Sophie Cunningham, this Australian author, now Adjunct Professor RMIT University’s Non/fiction Lab, acknowledges this First Nation Elder, Bill Neidjie. She thanks Magabala Books of Broome for permission to quote from Story about Feeling by Bill Neidjie and Keith Taylor.

 Read the whole review by Johanna Leggatt. Here are two excerpts.

City of Trees: Essays on life, death and the need for a forest by Sophie Cunningham Reviewed by Johanna Leggatt •  

May 2019, no. 411  ‘. In ‘I Don’t Blame the Trees’, Cunningham displays a talent for great observational detail, noting that the debate as to whether eucalypts should be removed from California’s Angel Island is loaded with inflammatory phrases such as ‘immigrant’, ‘invader’, and ‘refugee’. She resists championing the cutting down of non-native species simply because they don’t support local flora and fauna, wondering instead, quite astutely, what will replace the old trees after they are removed and pointing out that these days all of us are from somewhere else anyway.’

Like David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, she visits trees. Being Australian, she brings in the Eucalyptus and the Moreton Bay Fig. Compare their visits to olive trees!!! [See previous blogs re David George Haskell and Richard Powers in Sciences-and-Humanities.]

Johanna Leggatt writes: ‘Cunningham leavens her firsthand stories with summaries of scientific research and interviews. The result is an intriguing mélange of personal journey and journalism. The giant sequoia, we learn, are among the world’s oldest trees and their final numbers can be found along a belt of the western Sierra Nevada. When Cunningham walks through a grove of them, tears streaming down her face, she thinks, ‘I would lay down my life for you’. . .  Standing before old-growth trees, reaching for description, her mind stalls before their majesty. She sketches the trees instead, but even this proves challenging, with Cunningham left to wonder, ‘Is it possible to draw, or write, a forest?’

Michael Christie is a Canadian writer, whose debut story collection The Beggar’s Garden was a longlisted nominee for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and a shortlisted nominee for the 2011 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Read the whole review of Greenwood by Michael McLoughlin of ‘Readings’ in Melbourne.

“Every generation experiences a catastrophe: history can be read as a series of apocalypses. Do you think the people affected by the Dust Bowl felt like the Plebs during the Fall of Rome? Will we all feel these same experiences as conflagrations continue to decimate entire regions and the seas rise up to drown our cities? How far will we go to protect life? Will we do the right thing?’

Greenwood is a novel. As with David George Haskell – non-fiction, and Richard Powers – fiction, we have here the non-fiction of Sophie Cunningham and fiction of Michael Christie.  Both are story tellers of the highest order. Both speak to the heart of the matter.

But, in Tasmania Bob Brown and Conservation volunteers, despite the crisis, are trying to protect the takayna/ Tarkine – old growth forest – from the loggers and the insanity of the Tasmanian State Liberal government. They are being fined for protesting. They are being treated like criminals when they are caring about the future for the time when this crisis is over. Check the Bob Brown Foundation website. See the pictures of the impact of the logging already. Let us use our collective voices to fight for the future.

Offering this gem, in hope -– Find Edges by Belinda Broughton. Poet and artist.

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