Trees, as you may know, have rings. I don’t know about you, but I remember the wonder I first felt when my Dad showed me tree rings. He explained that I could tell about the tree’s life from the rings; the wide rings were from years of plenty of rain, and the thin ones from years of drought. Those tree rings turn out to be remarkably useful for not just telling us about a tree’s past, but about that of the world in which it grew. Which means, in a funny way, that trees can tell us something about what it meant to be human—and indeed what it means to be human, at least insofar as we can measure in trees the effects of our causes
With me to discuss trees, their history, and human history, is Valerie Trouet. She is Associate Professor and University of Arizona Distinguished Scholar in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, and the author of Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings.