A treeplanter’s vivid story of a unique subculture and the magical life of the forest.
Charlotte Gill spent twenty years working as a tree planter in the forests of Canada. During her million-tree career, she encountered hundreds of clearcuts, each one a collision site between human civilization and the natural world, a complicated landscape presenting geographic evidence of our appetites. Charged with sowing the new forest in these clear-cuts, tree planters are a tribe caught between the stumps and the virgin timber, between environmentalists and loggers.
In Eating Dirt, Gill offers up a slice of tree-planting life in all of its soggy, gritty exuberance, while questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace original forests that evolved over millennia into complex ecosystems. She looks at logging’s environmental impact and its boom-and-bust history, and touches on the versatility of wood, from which we have devised countless creations as diverse as textiles and airplane parts.
Eating Dirt also eloquently evokes the wonder of trees, which grow from a tiny seed into one of the world’s largest organisms, our slowest-growing “renewable” resource. Most of all, the book joyously celebrates the priceless value of forests and the ancient, ever-changing relationship between humans and trees.
“With this book, Charlotte Gill has fitted a key piece, long missing from the story of West Coast logging. What happens after these wild landscapes have been stripped of trees is an important, if painful topic, and it is hard to imagine a writer (and tree planter!) better qualified than Gill to tell this story of death and rebirth in the woods. In the same spare, unflinching prose that brought her such acclaim for her short story collection Lady Killer, Gill takes us into the remote and rarely seen world of the tree planter, immersing us in the unique combination of sweat, fog, heartache and humor that distinguishes it from all other labors.” —John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger