Sunday, August 20, 2017
This Red Oak started growing in 1743. The United States of America was not yet a country, with its declaration of independence still decades away. The global human population was around 750 million individuals; we did not yet understand that many diseases were caused by microorganisms, that earth’s crustal plates move around over time, that species evolve over time, or that humans could move energy from one place to another through wires. In 1743, Passenger Pigeons flocked in the skies of Eastern North America and may have landed in this tree’s branches.
The sign declares the tree to be more than 275 years old. This sign may be a few years old too, so the tree actually started growing in the decade before 1743. Regardless of the exact years, it's long life is a blip- nearly nonexistent- in geologic time, but this tree’s life spans a significant set of chapters in our human story. We now have 7.5 billion humans on the planet and have made significant scientific discoveries that allow us to do all sorts of things and lead to even more discoveries. Passenger Pigeons are extinct, and we ponder the fate of many other species both locally and globally.
And here this tree is, somehow still standing despite the vast majority of other old trees in the entire country being felled. Here it is providing shade and wonder to my family and food for insects and thus for birds.
It all started from an acorn, an acorn that is virtually identical to the Red Oak acorns you find today, and 275 years from now, the acorns of today could be trees that provide future humans, insects, and birds with shade, food, and wonder. What will our landscape, both cultural and ecological, look like in 2291?