The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

by John Vaillant
4.3 18

Paperback

$14.07 $21.00 Save 33% Current price is $14.07, Original price is $21. You Save 33%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Eligible for FREE SHIPPING

Overview

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant

The Golden Spruce is the story of a glorious natural wonder, the man who destroyed it, and the fascinating, troubling context in which his act took place.

A tree with luminous glowing needles, the golden spruce was unique, a mystery that biologically speaking should never have reached maturity; Grant Hadwin, the man who cut it down, was passionate, extraordinarily well-suited to wilderness survival, and to some degree unbalanced. But as John Vaillant shows in this gripping and perceptive book, the extraordinary tree stood at the intersection of contradictory ways of looking at the world; the conflict between them is one reason it was destroyed. Taking in history, geography, science and spirituality, this book raises some of the most pressing questions facing society today.

The golden spruce stood in the Queen Charlotte Islands, an unusually rich ecosystem where the normal lines between species blur, a place where “the patient observer will find that trees are fed by salmon [and] eagles can swim.” The islands’ beauty and strangeness inspire a more personal and magical experience of nature than western society is usually given to. Without romanticizing, Vaillant shows that this understanding is typified by the Haida, the native people who have lived there for millennia and know the land as Haida Gwaii – and for whom the golden spruce was an integral part of their history and mythology. But seen a different way, the golden spruce stood in block 6 of Tree Farm License 39, a tract owned by the Weyerhaeuser forest products company. It survived in an isolated “set-aside” amidst a landscape ravaged by logging.

Grant Hadwin had worked as a remote scout for timber companies; with his ease in the wild he excelled at his job, much of which was spent in remote stretches of the temperate rain forest, plotting the best routes to extract lumber. But over time Hadwin was pushed into a paradox: the better he was at his job, the more the world he loved was destroyed. It seems he was ultimately unable to bear the contradiction.

On the night of January 20, 1997, with the temperature near zero, Hadwin swam across the Yakoun river with a chainsaw. Another astonishing physical feat followed: alone, in darkness, he tore expertly into the golden spruce – a tree more than two metres in diameter – leaving it so unstable that the first wind would push it over. A few weeks later, having inspired an outpouring of grief and public anger, Hadwin set off in a kayak across the treacherous Hecate Strait to face court charges. He has not been heard from since.

Vaillant describes Hadwin’s actions in engrossing detail, but also provides the complex environmental, political and economic context in which they took place. This fascinating book describes the history of the Haida’s contacts with European traders and settlers, drawing parallels between the 19th century economic bubble in sea otter pelts – and its eventual implosion – and today’s voracious logging trade. The wood products industry is examined objectively and in depth; Vaillant explores the influence of logging not only on the British Columbia landscape but on the course of western civilization, from the expansion of farming in Europe to wood’s essential importance to the Great Powers’ imperial navies to the North American “axe age.” Along the way, The Golden Spruce includes evocative portraits of one of the world’s most unusual land- and seascapes, riveting descriptions of Haida memorial rites, and a lesson in the difficulty and danger of felling giant trees.

Thrilling and instructive though it may be, The Golden Spruce confronts the reader with troubling questions. John Vaillant asks whether Grant Hadwin destroyed the golden spruce because – as a beautiful “mutant” preserved while the rest of the forest was devastated – it embodied society’s self-contradictory approach to nature, the paradox that harrowed him. Anyone who claims to respect the environment but lives in modern society faces some version of this problem; perhaps Hadwin, living on the cutting edge in every sense, could no longer take refuge in the “moral and cognitive dissonance” today’s world requires. The Golden Spruce forces one to ask: can the damage our civilization exacts on the natural world be justified?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780676976465
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication date: 01/03/2006
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

John Vaillant has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and Men’s Journal among others. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and children. Of particular interest to Vaillant are stories that explore collisions between human ambition and the natural world. His work in this and other fields has taken him to five continents and five oceans. The Golden Spruce is his first book.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Golden Spruce 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never would I have thought that I could be captivated with a book dedicated to a tree but the author takes you through from ancient history to the present day. It is a story of Native American stories, beliefs, and history and on into the logging industry and conservation. All along however there is a criminal story going on in the background and ocasionally in the fore front. This book could be a novel if the story weren't so true. This book held me captive for four solid days of reading. Vaillant has done a tremendous amount of research. His writing skills compare to those of some of the best history writeds of the day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent, it surveys not only the particular event of the tree being cut, but also a complete history of logging and man's connections to the woods around him. I loved this book and would recommend it to history buffs and conservationists alike
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like Krakauer John Valliant captures the restless nature of men for whom the earth has become too small. Will there still be men like Grant Hadwin on this earth in hundred years? I doubt it. Grant was as unique and strange as the tree he killed. Both stood out among their peers, both had to adapt to survive in their environments. But while the golden spruce became healthy and was loved, Hadwin descended into madness and alienated people. Did he see a kindred spirit in the tree? He saw it as sickly yet celebrated. Was he jealous? More important than psychosis of Hadwin and his horrible deed is the history of conquest, logging and greed in a remote area of British Columbia. Valliant's detailed writing paints a tragic portrait of the clear cutting of one of the last great forests on earth. The dry data on board feet shipped, acreage felled and square miles decimated are mind numbing. To read this book is to understand that humankind is totally insane. Just like the evil Hadwin we are hell bent on destroying everything we love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book contains a history of logging, an environmentalist in the making, a story of greed and a tree that binds all of these elements. I like the way Vaillant weaves the story of a people and a tree through a fascinating history of the Northwest. This well documented work contains all the elements of a great mystery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you live in the Pacific Northwest or you just love Ecotopia, this is a must read. Its descriptions will bring you to the Queen Charlotte Islands. You will feel the chill of the cold Pacific and the mystery of the mist that enshrouds and nourishes the most beautiful part of North America.
MaddieL More than 1 year ago
This book is a wealth of information on a time of growth in the US and puts a piercing spotlight on our methods of logging to satisfy our voracious need for lumber. It really made me realize how little logging was regulated and how much damage has been done by clearcutting and machinery. The Golden Spruce was a lovely, one-of-a-kind spruce in Northern British Columbia which was revered by the Haida people. It was destroyed by one man whose style reminded me of Ted Kazinski's response to what he perceived as society needing a wake-up call. I am so glad I read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is part science, part cultural history and entirely interesting. Who would have guessed logging and sociology and nature could be intertwined in a story so well? And a true one at that. I believe anyone with even a remote interest in the Pacific Northwest or forests, or Native Americans will find this book unforgettable. I hope the author writes more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vaillant has become one of my favorite authors
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you love trees ..... absolutely fascinating slow boil of history, trees and a crazy man ... or was he?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago