David Milarch is on a quest to save California's coast redwoods, some of the world's oldest and largest living things; he may be saving the planet along the way.
There is nothing like a coast redwood. Sequoia sempervirens is the planet’s tallest tree, soaring to heights of more than 320 feet into the sky. They have trunks of more than 27 feet wide and can live for over 2,000 years. Some of the arboreal gentle giants living today were alive during the time of the Roman Empire. Before the mid-19th century, coast redwoods spread throughout a range of some 2 million acres along the California coast, starting at Big Sur and stretching all the way into southern Oregon. People had been peacefully co-existing with the forests forever.
But with the gold rush came the logging; today only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains along a 450-mile strip of coast. And as the planet warms up, the specific conditions required by the redwoods change; their future doesn't look so great. Animals can migrate north to escape the south's warming temperatures and consequential habitat change; trees, not so much.
But with David Milarch on the case, maybe they can.
In 1991, Milarch, an arborist from Michigan, literally died from renal failure, before being revived and springing back to life. There's nothing like a near-death experience to inspire a new course in life, as was the case with Milarch. His new quest? To harvest the genetics of the coast redwoods and give them an assist in migration.
"I feel tremendous sorrow that 95 percent of them were killed and we didn’t even know what they do to anchor our ability as human beings to live on this planet," says Milarch. "We killed them. That’s the bad news. It’s my job when I walk through there [the forest] to yell out to those trees, to hold those trees, and say I’m here to do everything in my power on Earth to bring all the human beings and all the help that I can to put this back. To put back every single tree that was cut down and killed. And I’m going to do it."
By cloning and replanting them in places where they once thrived but were lost, he is not only increasing their numbers but planting them in locations where they have a better chance of longevity. And the result is two-fold: Save the trees and save the planet (for humankind, at least, the planet will go on with or without us, but you know what I mean).
Redwood trees are among the most effective carbon sequestration tools in the world, notes Moving the Giants, “Milarch takes part in a global effort to use one of nature’s most impressive achievements to re-chart a positive course for humanity.”
To learn more about Milarch and the work he is doing, watch this wonderful short film. It might make you wonder if one can become an angel from a near-death experience alone.
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