By Jim Steele. Published in Pacifica. Tribune August 20, 2019
There are too many fear mongering politicians pushing an “existential climate crisis”. I find the climate history told by the trees far more trustworthy, and the trees are whispering there is no crisis.
This summer I taught a class on the Natural History of the Sierra Nevada for San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus. The first day we taught students how to identify the trees. Once students know their trees, they can easily see how tree species vary with elevation, temperature, moisture, and snow pack. They can see which species colonize open sunny areas and which trees need shade before they can invade. Old time naturalists used trees to identify “life-zones” where different species of mammals, birds, insects and other plants can be found. Furthermore, when you listen to the trees, you can see change.
The class explored forests along the North Yuba River. Free from politics, trees tell us about changes in fire frequency, logging, climate change and ecosystem resilience. Photographs taken during the late 1800s during California’s gold rush days, revealed the total devastation of local forests. Gold miners needed wood for heating and cooking, for their metal forges, and for timbers to reinforce their mines. They needed wood to build flume boxes that altered river courses to expose riverbeds. Flume boxes also carried water from high to low elevations where giant water cannons completely washed away hillsides in their search for gold.