Approaches to the natural world vary over time and geography, but one thing is certain in the early 21st century: our approach--in which nature is a resource to be exploited without thought to the consequences of depletion and destruction--is leading us toward disaster. And so, we need a new paradigm, and quickly.
William Bryant Logan's history of the simple but lost art of coppicing and pollarding, which are pruning practices that enable trees to live, in some cases, for centuries even as they are harvested for wood, provides a small way to re-imagine our approach to a more sustainable and ethical relationship with the natural world.
Beautifully written and full of anecdote, Sprout Lands belongs on the shelf with The Hidden Life of Trees and The Overstory.— Stephen
Once, farmers knew how to make a living hedge and fed their flocks on tree-branch hay. Rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts, and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls, and baskets. Townspeople cut their beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks. Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. No place could prosper without its inhabitants knowing how to cut their trees so they would sprout again.
Pruning the trees didn't destroy them. Rather, it created the healthiest, most sustainable and most diverse woodlands that we have ever known. In this journey from the English fens to Spain, Japan, and California, William Bryant Logan rediscovers what was once an everyday ecology. He offers us both practical knowledge about how to live with trees to mutual benefit and hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach.