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About the Witness Tree Project  |  Pre-Order the Book  |  Praise for the Book  |  Events


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Praise for the Book

How fun to open the New York Times Book Review today and find these nice words for Witness Tree

Very busy planning the launch April 11 in Seattle at our beautiful downtown public library, co-presented by the Elisabeth C. Miller Library of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the College of the Environment at the University of Washington.

Seattle friends, hope to see you there! Doors open at 7 pm

Then soon it will be time to head east to launch Witness Tree at the Harvard Forest May 2 and the Arnold Arboretum on May 5.



WitnessTree receives a starred review in the Feb 15 issue of Kirkus Reviews!

“A textured story of a rapidly changing natural world and our relationship to it, told through the lens of one tree over four seasons.Seattle Times environmental reporter Mapes (Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village, 2015, etc.) first encountered the Harvard Forest as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, returning soon afterward for a yearlong stay in the woods. Renting a room in a historic farmhouse, she sought out a majestic century-old oak to serve as her lens from which to explore the past, situate the present, and grapple with an uncertain future. Aided by a colorful team of interdisciplinary experts, Mapes tells a dynamic story from multiple perspectives, including from a hammock in the canopy of the tree. Understanding trees simultaneously as utility and commodity, as ritual and relic, as beings with agency and sustainers of life, the author illustrates how they have found their ways into our homes and memories, our economies and language, and she reveals their places in our entangled future. Seamlessly blending elements of physics, ecology, biology, phenology, sociology, and philosophy, Mapes skillfully employs her oak as a human-scaled entry point for probing larger questions. Readers bear witness to indigenous histories and colonialism, to deforestation and extraction, to industrialization and urbanization, and to the story of carbon and the indisputable realities of human-caused climate change. Understanding these phenomena to be intricately interconnected, the author probes lines falsely drawn between objectivity and emotion and between science and wonder, all while examining the nature of knowledge and the possibilities, tensions, and limitations of science. Passionately discrediting the notion that humans and nature are separate, she links this flawed belief to the root of our current ecological crisis and calls for a reimagining of the ways of being together in the world. A meticulously, beautifully layered portrayal of vulnerability and loss, renewal and hope, this extensively researched yet deeply personal book is a timely call to bear witness and to act in an age of climate-change denial.”

“The Harvard Forest is a center for the scientific study of climate change, but also–as this deep book makes clear– for what you might call the the philosophic and historical inquiry that we should be making into this most crucial of topics. Lynda Mapes has managed to find a new and intriguing way into this question, and her book will be read with great profit by a great many.”

—Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College

“Imagine discovering a cascade of clues to what a big tree has witnessed, and recorded. Peering deeply into a world-class research forest, the author joins ecologists at work with nature and instrument. She reads us the tree’s diary, its soft rhythms of daily life enriched by seasons and surprises. Dramatic land-use changes, forest convulsions, even changing climate produced a sturdy survivor. Suppose we all adopt a tree, or shrub or bird, to treasure. Create an ethic that alters history.”

Richard Forman, Research Professor of Advanced Environmental Studies, Harvard University

“Growing up devoted to the “kingdom of trees,” the award-winning Seattle Times environmental reporter, Lynda Mapes, returns to her East Coast roots to ruminate on the long life of one ancient oak tree in the Harvard Forest. Mapes chronicles how this “witness tree” both mirrors and is shaped by our changing, warming world. Lyrical, engaging, and wise, Mapes invites us to understand trees as individuals rather than a collective forest. This is compelling storytelling and natural history that, like our elder trees, is both enduring and inspiring.”

—Brenda Peterson, Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves

“Lynda Mapes reminds us what a magnificent thing a tree is. In beautifully crafted prose, she tells us the fascinating story of trees and how they bear witness to their natural neighborhood, to changing seasons and to our warming climate. These quiet sentinels, all around us, tell compelling stories, and we would be wise to listen.”

Kerry A. Emmanuel, Prof. Atmospheric Science, M.I.T.

“Mapes’ vivid language immerses us in the grand world of one esteemed red oak.  Witness Tree is a splendid story that enriches our view of nature and ourselves.”

—David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé, authors, The Hidden Half of Nature

“The real witness in Witness Tree is Lynda Mapes, who during a year at the Harvard Forest meets a cadre of people who are unraveling the forest’s wonderful secrets and how those are being impacted by climate change. This rich, engaging book should be in the hands of anyone interested in forests and the amazing stories they have to tell.”

—Tom Wessels, author of Forest Forensics and Reading the Forested Landscape and a professor emeritus at Antioch University

“As human-caused climate change continues to accelerate Witness Tree arrives with an ambitious aim—to mend the tattered bond between human and nature by deeply engaging with a single “big oak” and the ecology of life it harbors. With delightful prose full of wonder Lynda Mapes honors specialized knowledge (science and history) alongside citizen science, inspiring and empowering us all to take part in healing the earth. Witness Tree is a momentous guide for our rapidly changing time.”

—Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Chair and Professor of Art and Ecology, University of New

“A thorough and joyful exploration of the richness and complexity of forest ecosystems… Highly recommended for all lovers of natural history and forest science.”

-  Jerry F. Franklin, Professor, University of Washington.      




April 11, 2017
Launch Party
Seattle Public Library
Seattle, Wash.

April 15, 2017

Author reading and signing, 7 pm
Village Books
1200 11th Street
Bellingham, WA

April 27, 2017

Author reading and signing, 7:30 pm
Eagle Harbor Books
157 Winslow Way East
Bainbridge Island, WA

May 2, 2017
Launch Party
Harvard Forest Fisher Museum
Petersham, Mass.

May 5, 2017
Launch Party
Arnold Arboretum
Boston, Mass.