Monday, February 11, 2013

Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill

Eating Dirt is not at all what I was expecting.  Tree planters are not the kind of people I was expecting either.  Tree planters are down and dirty.  They are not flowery people and Gill makes no attempt to hide all of the nitty gritty details of their working lives.  She also makes no secret that while they do believe in the work they are doing, at the end of the day it's a way to pay bills, make money, and get by.  They're not on the front lines of environmentalism, they're more like clean up crews and they are a little jaded from it.  Once they get to a site, it's already been logged.  There is no natural beauty left, just the broken landscape and another opportunity to earn a day’s wage.

Despite all of this, the book is not sad.  It's not about environmentalism, it's about tree planters.  It's their story.  And those stories are not boring, or dark, or without hope.  They are hard working people but you've never heard about them before.  They've been around as long as man has been logging, and they'll be around as long as there are trees left to be cut down and replanted.

Gill brings this book to life with her rich writing and I found myself forgetting that I was reading non-fiction.  I wanted to hear the end of the stories she told and what happened to the people who passed in and out of her tree-planting life.  But true to life, the stories aren’t over yet and so have no ending.  Sometimes people just drift away.

Although the book reads as fluidly as fiction, there's no mistaking the truth in Gill's words.  She has both researched and experienced the lives of trees alongside man.  She explains the history of logging and tree planting.  She explains the fall of civilizations from over-logging.  She reminds us that, for all of our advancements, we are still making the same mistakes that many doomed civilizations before us had made.  For all of our technology, a tree’s purpose in the world has not changed.  All that has changed is man's ever-growing desire for the endless uses of felled trees.

Buy it indie!

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