Ladders to Heaven
They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Ladders to Heaven tells their amazing story. Fig trees fed our prehuman ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since. These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa s catastrophic eruption. Egypt s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne. And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope. Ultimately, it s a story about humanity s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.
- Paperback | 224 pages
- 129 x 198 x 20mm | 215g
- 06 Sep 2018
- London, United Kingdom
- 2nd edition
Table of contents
Chapter 1: Snakes & Ladders and Tantalising FigsChapter 2: Trees of Life, Trees of KnowledgeChapter 3: A Long SeductionChapter 4: Banyans and the Birth of BotanyChapter 5: Botanical MonkeysChapter 6: Sex & Violence in the Hanging GardensChapter 7: Struggles for ExistenceChapter 8: Goodbye to the Gardeners, Hello to the HeatChapter 9: From Dependence to DominionChapter 10: The War of the TreesChapter 11: The Testimony of VolcanoesChapter 12: Once Destroyed, Forever Lost?Epilogue: A Wedding Invitation
"The complex web of ecological connections between fig trees, tropical forest animals and plants, as well as people and human culture is nothing short of a marvel. [Ladders to Heaven] is a page-turner and a revelation: You will never think of a fig as just something to eat again. There is no a better way to introduce the complexity and wonder of nature – and our intricate relationship with it. A must read."
"Irresistible." - Literary Review * Literary Review *
About Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist.