In the beginning of the chapter, McCully explores the personal significance that trees can have to someone. For that old man she encountered while trying to do her census, it was the fact that the tree has been around since the Revolutionary War, whereas for her, she was more interested in its pedigree as a native woodland. I never thought about how because trees live such extensive lives (so long as they are untouched) they live before us and even outlive us ultimately. They have historic value because you acknowledge they’ve been around longer than you have, and have a futuristic mystery because they’ll be around after you’re gone.
When reading about how people saw no issue in cutting down trees because they knew there were so many of them left, I thought it was interesting how we have the same mentality about that today as we did centuries ago. To us, seeing the occasional tree on a street corner feels like “oh, there’s so many trees, cutting a few down so I have looseleaf paper doesn’t seem so bad.” Every future generation will have a more and more inaccurate perception of what the norm is for tree population, because as these generations are born, they’ll be in a world where there are less and less trees.
Additionally, our society highly values instant gratification. We can’t actually see all the benefits that trees provide for us when they are left untouched, however, we can see the warmth trees provide us when they serve as fuel for a fireplace or the paper they provide us with when we need to print something. These secondary resources that are derived from trees serve their daily functions for us, so we give more value to having the tree exploited for its various resources than we do about the tree in its raw state.