Trees in Paradise

Trees in Paradise
Paperback, 6 x 9, 7 black-and-white images, 592 pages.
ISBN: 9781597143929.

By Jared Farmer

2015 Winner of the Organization of American Historians’ Ray Allen Billington Prize

Winner of the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Award, Forest History Society

Winner of the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize, Foundation for Landscape Studies

Finalist, Spur Award for Nonfiction Contemporary, Western Writers of America

At the intersection of plants and politics, Trees in Paradise is an examination of ecological mythmaking and conquest. The first Americans who looked out over California saw arid grasslands and chaparral, and over the course of generations, they remade those landscapes according to the aesthetic values and economic interests of settlers, urban planners, and boosters. In the San Fernando Valley, entrepreneurs amassed fortunes from vast citrus groves; in the Bay Area, gum trees planted to beautify neighborhoods fed wildfires; and across the state, the palm came to stand for the ease and luxury of the rapidly expanding suburbs. Meanwhile, thousands of native redwoods and sequoias were logged to satisfy the insatiable urbanizing impulse. Revealing differing visions of what California should and could be, this natural and unnatural history unravels the network of forces that shape our most fundamental sense of place.

Reviews

“The wealth of research makes this an important addition to the California bookshelf. Farmer shows us how devoted, destructive, foolhardy, ambitious, greedy, enriched and showy Californians can be—not just in relation to our trees but also in general.” Los Angeles Times
“Knowledgeable, wise and compelling, Farmer’s book uncovers the subtle and surprising webs connecting the social, cultural and natural worlds of California, and the planet.” Kirkus, starred review
“A small group of savvy historians and ecologists—from William Cronon to Daniel Botkin and others—have in recent decades been alerting us to a neglected reality: that much of ‘nature’ as we perceive it is human-arranged. Jared Farmer is an important voice within this corps. Peering at California as landscape and dreamscape, he sees the forest for the trees.” David Quammen, author of Spillover
“A breathtaking, dramatic, and insightful history of California as seen through the rise and fall of the state’s most iconic trees. Beautifully written, every page is a revelation, bringing to vivid life the myriad ways in which California’s landscape was transformed by human greed and desire, often with disastrous results. You will never think about a tree or the California Dream in the same way.” Eric Jay Dolin, author of When America First Met China
“A sweeping and brilliantly observed history of the promise and pitfalls of the California Dream, as seen through the intertwined lives of trees and people.” Sir Peter Crane, author of Ginkgo
+ Show all reviews
Categories History | Nature

About the Author

Jared Farmer

Jared Farmer

Jared Farmer is a professor of history at Stony Brook University who specializes in the environmental history of the American West. He is the author of two previous books: Glen Canyon Dammed: Inventing Lake Powell and the Canyon Country (University of Arizona Press, 1999) and On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Harvard University Press, 2008). He is the winner of nine book prizes, numerous fellowships, and the Hiett Prize in the Humanities.

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