Jean Shinoda Bolen is a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, and an internationally known author and speaker who draws from spiritual, feminist, Jungian, medical, and personal wellsprings of experience. She is one of S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers. You can visit her at In this extraordinary book, Bolen speaks for all of us tree people in her defense of these oldest living beings on earth, these precious friends who give us oxygen, protect the soil from erosion, serve as habitats for wildlife, and stir us as great works of art. We agree with her when she writes:

"To a tree person, cutting them down for lumber would be like pulverizing Michelangelo's statues of David or the Pieta to make marble tiles, or bulldozing the acropolis in Athens as a site for a hotel."

Trees are under assault from many different sides. They are being cut down by logging companies and being used up as resources. The rain forests are being destroyed, especially in Brazil and Indonesia. Drought and global warming have made trees susceptible to scourges like the black hard-shelled beetle which has killed thousands of pine forests and made them vulnerable to fire.

What does all this mean? Bolen notes: "Not enough trees, too many people — this is simple arithmetic that, if unheeded, will take humanity over the edge into catastrophe." Tree activists are doing their best to halt this path to ecological devastation, including the Greenpeace Kleercut campaign, Andy Lipkis and the Tree People, Wangari Maathai's Greenbelt Movement, and efforts of Julia Butterfly Hill, Linda Milks, Hilary Huntley, and others.

Trees have been sacred to indigenous peoples for centuries and in the recent movie Avatar a giant tree is at the center of the lives of the people who live on in Pandora. In her wide-ranging tribute to trees, Bolen shows how Findhorn, the philosophy of Gaia, and even Shel Silverstein's children's book The Giving Tree have all contributed to our mystical appreciation of these life-givers.

According to Bolen, trees are also symbols of hope, vitality, and transformation. They play roles in many religions and provide wisdom for all who are open to the great mysteries of life. A sidebar theme in the book is the author's advocacy for women and girls who, like trees, have been oppressed and treated shamefully. One comes away from this work with a renewed reverence for trees.