A short piece in the L.A. Times on Monday the 11th got past me until today.
A giant sequoia tree is dying in Martinez, California. It was planted in 1883 by John Muir, the father of the environmental conservation movement in the United States. Muir started the Sierra Club and wrote extensively about his explorations of nature, especially in Yosemite. He inspired Theodore Roosevelt to create the National Park system. For much of his life, Muir lived in the old growth forests of the Sierra Nevada, trekking through the shadows of the huge redwoods, a bit of an eccentric visionary.
Muir brought this sequoia back from one of his journeys as a seedling and planted it on his homestead in Martinez, now the John Muir National Historic Site. The 70-foot tall redwood is today dying from an airborne fungal infection, but a fascinating non-profit in Copemish, Michigan aptly named Archangel has successfully cloned the tree and will send a new, genetically identical seedling back to the Muir site for planting.
Archangel’s mission is to propagate the world’s most important old growth trees before they are gone and to reforest the earth with their offspring. According to the co-founder of Archangel, David Milarch, there will be many more clones available soon for planting around the country.
Now, all this may seem a bit quaint in a world of ongoing economic crisis, senseless war, and global environmental destruction, but I see it as one of the more hopeful signs in my lifetime. First the National Park Service—a governmental agency for God’s sake—revealed itself to be smart and sensitive in preserving the memory of John Muir and his environmental activism. And, more importantly, Archangel’s mission might be one of the most revolutionary movements in our sordid history of stewardship to the Earth’s environment.
I encourage you to visit Archangel’s website and read up on them. Re-planting forests is a radical act of environmental activism that, if successful, could at least begin to mitigate the damage our corporate greedheads have done to the planet. And, as a happy consequence, it may shed light into all our hearts through the efforts of one lonely man whose footsteps among the giant sequoias have left a monument to their preservation.