"There was only one giant golden spruce in the world, and, until a man named Grant Hadwin took a chainsaw to it,
October 31, 2002 8:11 AM   Subscribe

"There was only one giant golden spruce in the world, and, until a man named Grant Hadwin took a chainsaw to it, in 1997, it had stood for more than three hundred years in a steadily shrinking patch of old-growth forest in Port Clements, on the banks of the Yakoun River, in the Queen Charlotte Islands." A fascinating read, from this week's New Yorker.
posted by GriffX (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Port Clements, meanwhile, has suffered much; not only has the town lost its mascot (the tree is the centerpiece for the town logo) but, in November of the same year, its albino raven was electrocuted on a transformer.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:42 AM on October 31, 2002

Fascinating background to that terrible newsbite - thanks for the link. Apparently mental illness ran in the Hadwin family. Too bad he took that tree with him when he went off the deep end.

British Columbia is selling itself to Japan and elsewhere one board-foot at a time. The clearcuts are truly horrifying, and the short-sightedness of that mindset almost incomprehensible.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:44 AM on October 31, 2002

Fingers crossed on the grafts. Here's one the struggling little guys: (Doesn't look as yellow as i'd imagined.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2002

Can't see the forest for the tree...

Wow. Wow. This is fascinating. First reaction is to hate this man, but you need to read the rest of the article to at least begin to understand him.


I wonder how many people there are there in the logging industry, or who make money off the logging industry or are on its periphery, who have never made any effort to save the area's trees from clearcutting, but who still ardently condemn what he did to a single tree. I mourn the tree, but maybe it should be a sacrifice that should not be ignored.

Hadwin was down to the contents of a single suitcase and a Visa card. Among the last items charged were an expedition-grade sea kayak, a camping tarp, a cookstove, a life vest, an axe, and a shovel...

At dusk, with his gear stowed in fore and aft compartments and an axe and a spare paddle lashed to his forward deck, Hadwin paddled out of Prince Rupert Harbour and directly into a storm.

Maybe Hadwin himself was a sacrifice, too.
posted by Shane at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2002

Another graft link, and an interesting thought from the grafter: "This opened up a whole range of questions I would never have considered until this came up," Macdonald said. "I myself started to wonder whether this tree will really mean the same because it's been removed from their sacred ground, propagated by us in different soil at the University of British Columbia, and then been moved back again."
posted by some chick at 9:05 AM on October 31, 2002

posted by gravelshoes at 9:09 AM on October 31, 2002

he's got guts.

I wish I could be so cool ;)
I intend to be capable of such things should the need arise.
posted by firestorm at 9:18 AM on October 31, 2002

Changes are happening within the logging industry in BC, though. It's several decades later than it should have happened, but it is, at least, happening.

I think the madman did make an excellent point that has been mainly overlooked by the media and those who are aware of what he did:

Namely, that all our resources should be treated with the reverence and respect that the freaks-of-nature are treated. A golden tree, the white raven, the giant redwood -- they get treated specially, when instead we should be treating the wonder of salmon, the verdant forests, the beauty of mountains with the same respect.

Yes, we need to log, we need to mine, we need to fish -- but we can do these things with care, and ensure that they continue to provide both income and sustenance forever.

Currently, "long term" means over the next two decades, not the next two millenium. That's our greatest mistake.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:52 AM on October 31, 2002 [1 favorite]

This guy is engaging in a kind "environemntal terrorism" by intentionally cutting down trees that are tourist attractions. He has a point to make, and it is that the logging companies are destroying the forests with little regard to how they will regrow.

Read the whole article and you'll start to see his point of view, regardless of whether he's completely nuts or not.
posted by camworld at 10:16 AM on October 31, 2002

I'm having a hard time seeing how an irreversible action like this make any "point" besides this guy being off his rocker.

I agree totally with his fury at the destruction of the forests (which for him I imagine to be much worse, tinged with guilt from the path his life had taken) but going to this extreme is way beyond the pale, and totally drowns out any constructive message.

Like, maybe, mailing anthax to show how easily it is to get away with it?

Are any trees, besides maybe unique ones like this, less likely to be cut now? It's chainsawing your nose to spite your face.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2002

This reminds me of Paul Stedman Cullen pouring herbicide on the Treaty Oak in Austin, Texas after his girlfriend broke up with him. It was once called the most perfect tree in North America.
posted by y2karl at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2002

What an incredible character. I wonder whatever happened to him?

Me, I'd like to think that he's still alive, out there, and living off the forest.

hmmm... It really makes you wonder...
posted by dazed_one at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2002

I hate revolutionaries who try to "teach us all a lesson" by killing something.
posted by timeistight at 2:40 PM on October 31, 2002

Like many of you, I at first was angered by his actions, but as others have already said, read the rest of the article. he had a laudable point to make, and in a means that I almost find myself envying -- not that I don't second guess how good a thing that is... in my view he did make the point that he was intending too, but the real tragedy is that it's far too easy to get mad at him for his actions rather than to see the point he's trying to make. such is the issue with extremism.

well worth the read whether you're on the logger's side or a Sierra member....
posted by mr_mindless at 2:56 PM on October 31, 2002

Er... I should mention that I think the guy is a nutbar and asshole, and should be clonked upside the head for deciding that the best way to make his point was to destroy things...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:23 PM on October 31, 2002

Upon reflection, I think Grant Hadwin and Paul Stedman Cullen have this something in common--utter narcissism. Cullen, as you may or may have not read, was this man in Austin, Texas, who, went to the Treaty Oak poured around it's roots.

Who appointed either Grant Hadwin or Paul Stedman to be God and destroy the most precious of common treasures? Well, Grant Hadwin or Paul Stedman--because they had to show the world how important and serious this and they were, and these trees had to be sacrificed in demonstration. Oh, the pure selfish spite of it--it really isn't all that far from the mindset that flies airliners into towers, you know. Albeit may be apples and oranges, a difference in scale--but still a finger in the eye, a knife in the heart in common.
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on October 31, 2002 [1 favorite]

Having read the article, I'm left with some mixed emotions. What a terrible loss, of that tree. I would have loved to have seen it someday. It's always so exciting when you hear about the little pieces of fantasy that really do...or did...exist in the real world. It's pretty painful to hear that they're gone.

Still...I am growing more familiar by the day with the reality that humans do not usually do what is right, if it is inconvenient. This is, of course, just my own observation, and you're all welcome to point out the apparent flaws in my mind, or my wording. People, especially in groups, develop a kind of inertia that is really difficult and painful to alter. The worst part is, that we usually don't notice it, and don't want to.

Quite often, it requires a massive shock to our collective system to get us to change the way we think or act. In retrospect, it is pretty clear that airplanes would make a fantastic weapon if the wielder were simply able to overcome his or her fear of death. They used to be very easy to highjack. Yet, before 9/11/2001, most people would have brushed aside anyone who seriously tried to point this out and protect against it. It took four planes crashed, two of the tallest buildings in the world destroyed (on world-wide television), and over 3000 people dead, before folks would change their thinking on that one. In retrospect, guarding our aircraft better seems like such a reasonable idea too. It's stunning that we had collectively decided that such worries were not valid before 9/11/2001.

Mr. Hadwin cut down a beautiful, and unique tree. His statement of purpose was to get folks to think about all the other trees, indeed entire forests, whose deaths we can't even be bothered to learn about, or think about.

"We still got trees...what's the problem? He was being destructive, and I won't forgive him for that. A terrorist. Hadwin was just an asshole. [Leave me alone.]"

It sure seems like Grant succeeded in stirring things up, but I wonder if the spruce died in vain. Why are we all talking about what a jerk he was? What else could he have done to even get us to pay attention to what he was thinking? Apart from cutting down the tree...what parts of his thinking and actions regarding trees and forrests do we agree were/are wrong?

I think it's just much more convenient to get angry with him, than to try addressing the problem(s) he was trying to bring to our attention. We are perfectly justified in feeling hurt at the loss of this one amazing tree, and we are free to express that anyway we want. But it was killed by a man who apparently loved trees, and loved the forrest...

...bah, let's just make sure he's dead. Freinds is on. What a jerk.
posted by ruggles at 12:30 AM on November 1, 2002

You can't make a political point at the expense of another's life-that's terrorism, most uncool. Those Buddhist monks who lit themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam war-that's the model to follow if you're so committed to the cause.
posted by quercus at 8:55 AM on November 1, 2002

The current Metatalk meme seems to be that we need to accept everyone and their actions, no matter how destructive or hurtful.

Be nice to Grant: he's been off killing one-of-a-kind trees, but it's all in the name of a bigger ideal, so that's okay!

Be nice to Flores: he's been off killing nursing students, but it's all in the name of his crappy life, so that's okay!

Be nice to terrorists: they're just making their point, so that's okay!

Ya know what? I understand that they're making a statement, and I can often appreciate that statement. But making a statement does not justify their actions.

I don't give a damn how important your message is: hurting others id not acceptable. Find some other way to get your point across.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on November 1, 2002

I've posted a picture of the tree made from a cutting of the golden spruce in the 1970s that is still alive today at University of British Columbia Botanical Garden.
posted by dpkm at 11:35 AM on November 1, 2002

Nice summation, fff. I couldn't agree more.
posted by timeistight at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2002

fff, that's a worthy expression of idealism; would that life were that simple.

Many have argued, however, that it's almost impossible to live one's life without impacting another's in some way -- dating back to at least John Stuart Mill, or Locke, or consequentialism, and also the basis for economics (pricing and value of goods and services), which provides a way to negotiate compensation for harm (e.g. transfer of property).
posted by dhartung at 8:32 PM on November 1, 2002

Yah, surely, dhartung. Bloody obvious, that. Regardless, it doesn't render what I said null and void. It's not a black-and-white issue. It's not that you either live a harm-free life or run about deliberately causing maximal harm.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 AM on November 2, 2002

The current Metatalk meme seems to be that we need to accept everyone and their actions, no matter how destructive or hurtful.

Huh? Have I been reading the wrong MetaTalk?
posted by languagehat at 7:34 PM on November 2, 2002

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