"Can We Save the Redwoods by Helping Them Move?"

"The largest trees on the planet can’t easily ‘migrate’ — but in a warming world, some humans are helping them try to find new homes."

"When Philip Stielstra retired from Boeing in 2012, he needed something purposeful to do. He and his wife, Gay, were casual golfers, but Stielstra, an antiwar activist in college who refused to fight in Vietnam — he worked in a post office instead — wanted a pastime with bigger stakes. Before leaving his job, he received an email from the city of Seattle: The Parks and Recreation Department needed “tree ambassadors.” Tree canopy cover had receded in the city, and the department was responding by promoting an appreciation for its remaining trees. The volunteer ambassadors would learn about these trees and lead residents on walking tours to marvel at them. Stielstra, despite being a self-described introvert, signed up.

Through his work for the department, he came to think of the city’s trees as like grandparents: always there, always supportive, always gracious and often quite old. But he also came to regard the city as failing to meet its own goal. It claimed to want to increase canopy cover, but as a volunteer, he was planting no trees

One day, Stielstra’s twin brother recommended that he read a book titled “The Man Who Planted Trees,” which told the story of David Milarch, a former motorcycle-gang member. Milarch, after experiencing a life-changing epiphany (he said he received messages from divine beings during the delirium of going cold-turkey sober), dedicated himself to preserving the genetics of the world’s largest and oldest trees by cloning them. As it happened, Stielstra spent some of his childhood not far from where Milarch propagated his trees, called the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, in Copemish, Mich. On a visit to the family vacation home in Michigan later that year, Stielstra and his brother stopped by to visit. Large and gruff, Milarch had a knack for speaking directly to people’s emotional connections with trees, Stielstra thought. He was a different kind of tree ambassador, one committed to the very type of action — planting trees — that Stielstra wanted to participate in."

Moises Velasquez-Manoff reports for the New York Times Magazine October 25, 2023.

Source: NYTimes, 10/26/2023