The Golden Spruce


in Books and literature, Canada, The environment

John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce is a superb book: the best I have read in many months. It tells the intertwined stories of British Columbia, the economic development of Canada, old growth logging, the Haida (and the Haida Gwaii), and, of course, a unique Sitka Spruce and the man who destroyed it. Particularly for somebody interested in both Western Canada and the environment, it was the ideal type of non-fiction reading.

The story told is a compelling one, full of informative detail and light on preaching and speculation. I read it in one long session, sitting in my hermitage in Devon while temporarily avoiding thesis work. What the book did remind me of, in part, is why the whole study of the environment is important.

I already have two people waiting to borrow my copy (one of the books my mother kindly sent to England for me), but there are surely other examples of it out there.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan April 8, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Oxford libraries can be surprisingly lacking in Canadian books. Many of my book sources on the Stockholm Convention had to be specially ordered.

I found a couple more thorough reviews of Vaillant’s book, though I generally recommend that people avoid reading too much about an excellent book, before they set out reading it:


R.K. April 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Amazon has the book for about £8. The Bod doesn’t have a copy.

R.K. April 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm

The Oxfordshire County Library doesn’t have it either.

Milan April 9, 2007 at 4:22 am

My apologies, but the sporadic and lethargic web access in St. Antony’s College has prevented me from uploading a daily post or an image of the day. I will do both retroactively tomorrow. Thank you for being patient.

To come back from a week of no web access to this crawling, sputtering sort is terrifically frustrating.

. December 7, 2007 at 11:11 am
. December 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Throw the book at him

By Eric de Place

Sickening. Kevin John Moran of Camano Island, Wash., was just convicted of illegally cutting down 27 old-growth cedars on public land. They were between 400 and 700 years old. And they were dry-side trees, even rarer than the Northwest’s west-slope titans.

Anon December 19, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Land-use pact halts ‘juggernaut’ of big logging on the Charlottes
Agreement resolves much conflict with B.C. government, Haida leader says
Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nearly half the Queen Charlotte Islands-Haida Gwaii is to be protected in a land-use agreement signed Wednesday that the Haida say will end the “industrial juggernaut” of large-scale logging on the islands.

Anon December 19, 2007 at 12:45 pm

“One of the plan’s key features is to establish 254,000 hectares of new protected areas, bringing the total protected area on the islands up to about 50 per cent of the land. Further, the annual logging harvest is to be cut back by 40 per cent to 800,000 cubic metres of timber from 1.3 million.”

Milan February 15, 2008 at 4:07 pm

This review should be lengthened and improved.

. March 18, 2011 at 11:33 pm

But over the past two years 24 mills have reopened and 10,000 workers have been rehired to fill orders from China. That is the pay-off for a marketing effort involving the industry and government: Canada has helped to revise China’s building codes, set up colleges there to train workers in timber-frame construction, and forged ties with distributors.

So British Columbians have greeted the latest American complaint with insouciance. American officials grumble about a big increase in timber classified as “salvage grade”, which attracts minimal cutting fees. The Canadians retort that much of the increased harvesting of timber is a result of the havoc wrought by the mountain pine beetle, which has infested and killed about half British Columbia’s commercial pine forests. Furthermore, the system for grading timber was agreed on by the two countries in 2006, when they settled their previous spat over softwood lumber.

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