American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation, by Eric Rutkow


Four stars, started in spring 2018, finished in fall.

To finish the backpacking challenge I did over the summer, I had to read a book from the United States. This was the only nonfiction book I read for the challenge, because it was the only one of the books I’d been about to get into that I could find a way to incorporate. In this case I was traveling through time instead of space; American Canopy is about the way trees shaped the country throughout history.

I quite enjoyed learning that religious opposition to progress has always been an out-of-control fire hose in the United States:

They pointed out that only God can make a tree . . . that if He had wanted a forest on the wind-scoured prairies of Nebraska and Kansas, He would have put it there . . . and that for FDR to rush in where The Almighty had feared to tread was not only silly, but possibly blasphemous.

This book made me deeply sad that I’ll never be able to see the majestic primeval forests that were “capable of growing taller than nearly any others on earth, to reach proportions almost incomprehensible to London shipwrights (or, for that matter, modern-day Americans)”. I have a particular love for trees, and though I have a particular not love for American history, this was a lovely and much-preferable angle from which to go through it.

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