The Golden Spruce

The Golden Spruce

A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

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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 and, 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, 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 (Haida Gwaii), an unusually rich ecosystem where the normal lines between species blur. Without romanticizing, Vaillant shows that this understanding is typified by the Haida, the native people who have lived there for millennia, 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.

Grant Hadwin had worked as a remote scout for timber companies. But over time Hadwin was pushed into a paradox: the better he was at his job, the more the world he loved was destroyed. On January 20, 1997, with the temperature near zero, Hadwin swam across the Yakoun River with a chainsaw. He tore into the golden spruce, leaving it so unstable that the first wind would push it over. A few weeks later, 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. The Golden Spruce forces one to ask: can the damage our civilization exacts on the natural world be justified?

Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton
Copyright Date: ♭2005
ISBN: 9780307371324
Branch Call Number: Online eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file, rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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p
pokano
Sep 09, 2018

Fascinating book centered around the cutting down of the famous Golden Spruce in the Queen Charlotte Islands by a white anti-logging fanatic who most likely was mentally ill and made most of what money he had by brilliantly designing logging accesses. The author explores the Haida culture and the tribe's relationship to the Canadian government, British Columbia logging practices, the ecosystem of the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the complicated life of Grant Hadwin, who cut down the tree in an apparent act of protest against corporate logging practices, with a little botany thrown in. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in First Peoples (the Canadian moniker for those that people in the United States call Native Americans) and the Pacific Northwest rain forest ecosystem.

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bcjones14
Feb 28, 2018

This nonfiction book is dense and belabors details about logging that make it difficult to get through at times. I was expecting more of an exciting read about Grant Hadwin and the Golden Spruce but it does not feature prominently. Instead of reading the book, I would recommend John Valliant's New Yorker article that is concise, includes the interesting details, and gets to the point: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/11/04/the-golden-bough

l
ladyparasol
Jul 21, 2017

I loved this book. I learned about the Haida people and logging. Also what happens when someone with such good intentions goes off the deep end and does something so wrong. I found Grant Hadwin quite fascinating. I also watched the documentary about him and, among other things, was amazed at the house that he built.

m
mclarjh
Feb 13, 2017

Much ado about nothing. Journalistic style writing.

m
mlharr
Aug 14, 2016

This was a really unique and interesting nonfiction, recommended to me by my aunt! The blurb on the book compared it to a Krakauer book, and I'd mostly agree with that. It certainly brought the temperate rainforests of British Columbia alive for me, but John Vaillant also maintains an individual writing style.

The Golden Spruce is not only the story of a singular tree; it's also the story of the Haida people and the history of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest, all intertwined. The old growth trees of the Pacific Northwest are really, really old, so the book begins way, way back, when people were just starting to populate the area. It was very interesting to read about the myths and legends traditionally associated with the golden spruce. I would've appreciated a pronunciation guide, or phonetic spellings of all the words associated with the Haida people... Vaillant provides phonetic spellings for a few of the words, but not many, and they all include a LOT of vowels with not quite enough consonants. For example, the name of the golden spruce is Kiidk'yaas.

There's also a lot of background on the logging industry in British Columbia. It takes a unique person to work in that field: all the loggers interviewed for the book said that they got into the industry because they loved being out in the woods. Yet, their job is to cut down those woods.

Overarchingly, The Golden Spruce is the story of Grant Hadwin. He's a logger who starts to see how logging will end eventually- in the total decimation of Canada's beautiful old-growth forests. I kind of got the feeling from the book that he might have been a little crazy, too. He decides to cut down the golden spruce in protest, to show how valuable a tree can be. I say that he's a little crazy, because in order to do this he had to kayak across dangerous water in Canada in February. I don't know that I'd even want to kayak in Canada in August- too cold!

At times the book felt slightly disjointed, but it did all come together at the end. I found it all pretty interesting, and remained engaged the whole time. There are black and white pictures in the middle of the book, so I had to take to the internet to find a color picture of the golden spruce.

e
ehallvan
Jun 28, 2016

Well told story, but I would have liked the author to give more details about Hadwin's writings...I can't find any copies of his manifestos.

s
shawnwright8
May 05, 2015

Fantastic read. A complex, yet easy reading book that deftly combines history and mystery into a single storyline. Good research gives this book weight and insight into the forestry industry in BC. Must read for British Columbians

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 19, 2015

A local author writing his first book relates a real life tragedy and mystery with thoughtfulness and informative detail. The story of Haida Gwaii’s golden spruce offers insight into B.C.’s roots—its discovery, culture, landscape and one man’s struggle with the devastation of the coastal rainforest. The reader is haunted by the living spirit of the tree and the sacredness of its place within nature.

r
rusty_13
Dec 05, 2014

This is a fascinating true story about a lumberjack gone rogue. Besides being entertaining, I feel I learned a lot about the history of the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest.

b
Bjreader
Jul 04, 2013

The Golden Spruce is truly a story of myth, madness and greed.
It gave so much information and at times I felt that it was a manifesto about the destruction of our forests and not pointing out what we are doing to our world and the people doing the destruction not getting it.

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spacecat
Jun 26, 2012

spacecat thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

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