The Clearing

How We Live and Die With Trees

Trees are our silent, slow helpers and companions. The provide us with material so that we can be at home in the world, and they emit the oxygen which keeps us alive. They endure far longer than us, connecting generations of humans in a single tree-life.

If they enable our existence, we abuse them in return. Fired up by selective readings of religious texts, we are making their lives impossible. The clearings we have created for our ‘civilisation’ are joining up and turning into deserts, impelled by frontier-pushers such as Davy Crockett and Bolsonaro. In the process these clearings are also extinguishing ancestral cultures who live in and with the forest.

This book tells stories of perverted origin myths, ethnic genocide, ignorance of the natural world, and the horror of the climate crisis. Our resulting grief –personal and collective- is set against inspiring examples of kinship with our arboreal cousins: we will see an elderly bonsai continuing human filial bonds beyond the grave; precise, wonderful wood constructions in the Austrian forest giving shape to a gentle, respectful attitude to the forest; amazing vegetal animism in contemporary Japan; and an encounter with an improbable, regal forest guardian.

If we are to survive as a species, we will have to refound our relations with the wood giants who welcome us here. This book shows how doing so will be a joyous endeavor.

Published summer 2023
ISBN 978-87-974262-1-0
Format 120×200 mm
Pages 272

Author bio

Author Andrew Todd is an architect, winner of the WAN Award for the best wooden building in the world for the Hardelot Elizabethan Theatre. Anchored by his own roots making plant-based buildings, and by the example of his forest manager father, he takes us on a journey which looks at trees and forests from a kaleidoscopic range of viewpoints: as solid matter for building shelter, as ongoing habitat for timeless tribes, as the seat of Western origin myths. The Clearing takes us to the contested, multi-layered forests of Old and New England, to the tropical rain forest (a scene of our civilisational endgame), to ultra-modern (yet animist) Japan, to harmonious and innovative wooden villages in Austria, and to the terraformed, zombie-forested Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic.