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The Songs of Trees: David George Haskell in Conversation with Elizabeth All...

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California Institute of Integral Studies

1453 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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Pulitzer Prize finalist David Haskell's book The Forest Unseen earned acclaim for eloquent writing and deep engagement with the natural world. His newest book, The Songs of Trees, explores nature's most magnificent networkers—trees.

In The Songs of Trees, Haskell repeatedly visits a dozen trees around the world—exploring their connections with webs of fungi, bacterial communities, cooperative and destructive animals, and other plants. By unearthing charcoal left by Ice Age humans and petrified redwoods in the Rocky Mountains, Haskell shows how the Earth's climate has emerged from exchanges among trees, soil communities, and the atmosphere. Now humans have transformed these networks—powering our societies with wood, tending some forests, but destroying others. Haskell also examines trees in places where humans seem to have subdued nature—a pear tree on a Manhattan sidewalk, an olive tree in Jerusalem, a Japanese bonsai—demonstrating that wildness permeates every location.

Every living being is not only sustained by biological connections, but is made from these relationships. Haskell shows that this networked view of life enriches our understanding of biology, human nature, and ethics. When we listen to trees—nature's great connectors—we learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.

David George Haskell integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world in his work. He is a professor of biology and environmental studies at the University of the South and a Guggenheim Fellow. His 2012 book The Forest Unseen was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and won the 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies, The National Outdoor Book Award, and the Reed Environmental Writing Award. Along with his scholarly research, he has published essays, op-eds, and poetry.

Elizabeth Allison, PhD, is an associate professor of ecology and religion at CIIS, where she founded and chairs the graduate program in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion. Her research and teaching explore connections between religion, ethics, and environmental practice, with particular attention to biodiversity, waste, ecological place, and climate change.  The Earth Charter and the World Bank's Development Dialogue have cited her research on the religious response to climate change.  Her articles appear in WIREs Climate Change, Mountain Research and Development, the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, and in edited volumes on Bhutan, religion, and geography. She is working on a book entitled The Political Ecology of Happiness: Religion, Environment, and Development in Modernizing Bhutan. A former Fulbright scholar, she holds degrees in environmental management from the University of California - Berkeley and Yale University, and in religion from Yale and Williams College.

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California Institute of Integral Studies

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