BEACON TRANSCRIPT – As scientists contemplate and analyze the so-called Anthropocene epoch, some are looking at a Sitka spruce as a symbol of modern times. This is popularly known as “the Loneliest Tree in the World”.
The tree grows on the Southern Ocean’s Campbell Island. This is around 43.5 sq miles and about 400 miles away from New Zealand. It is home to a single tree, said to have been planted by New Zealand’s governor, Lord Ranfurly.
This event likely occurred sometime in the early 1900s. While it has plenty of grass all around it, the nearest other tree is on the Auckland Islands, about 138 miles (222 km) away.
The Loneliest Tree in the World and the Answers it Might Offer
This lone tree has notably absorbed radiation from the nearby above-ground atomic bomb tests. These took place in the region during the 1960s.
The highest radiation levels were recorded for 1965, the year after such tests were banned. As such, many see the tree as a symbol of the Anthropocene epoch. At the same time, 1965 is serving as a handy date to begin counting the period.
“Anthropocene” comes from the Greek word for “human”. It stands for the idea that our dominance of the planet has led to a new epoch in the history of Earth.
The idea is gaining some traction among scientists, as our environmental impact becomes more pronounced. Officially, though, our current epoch is called the Holocene and has been going on for about 11,700 years.
In a way, the Loneliest Tree in the World can be seen as a dual symbol. While it is a record of the destructive power of the human-made nuclear bombs, it would not be on Campbell Island at all if a person had not decided to plant it.
Because of this, this Sitka spruce (native to far-away North America) is a sign of humanity’s ability to both create and destroy life, benefiting and harming the world with its actions.
A paper with the results of this latest study of the tree is available in the journal Scientific Reports.
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