An examination of the role that wood and trees have played in our global ecosystem—including human evolution and the rise and fall of empires—in the bestselling tradition of Yuval Harari's Sapiens and Mark Kurlansky's Salt .
Ennos specializes in biomechanics and writes with an appreciative eye for wood’s physical qualities ... We are, in profound ways, shaped by wood. Binocular vision, hands rather than paws, and differentiated front and hind limbs, Ennos notes, are not human features so much as they are animals-living-in-trees features ... Ennos points out that the largest ship in the world in 1514, the Henry Grace à Dieu in the English king’s fleet, was no larger than the great ships of antiquity. The age of wood had been an age of relative stasis, with limited outlooks and constrained possibilities. Wood, for all its wonders, is a stubborn material, better suited to time-consuming artisanal work than mass production. By replacing it, first as a fuel and then as a material, the British exited a long era of placid economic growth and entered a dizzying time of unbounded possibility ... The age of wood is over, yet Ennos hopes that aspects might return. Psychologists have suggested that being around wood is calming, and, compared to its fossil-fuel rivals, it’s easier on the environment.
... a lively history of biology, mechanics and culture that stretches back 60 million years, from the evolution of small, tree-dwelling, bush babies, with which humans share a common ancestor. It ends in our more sobering modern times, as megafires, propelled by climate change, incinerate millions of hectares in Australia and the United States, and thousands of square kilometres of Brazilian rainforest are razed to make way for mining and cattle ranching.
Ennos shares his insatiable curiosity with us. He applies his sharp eye for details, and he does so entertainingly ... Ennos draws from his own research ... He also draws on an erudite knowledge of history, anthropology, animal behavior and cognitive science.