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The most remote tree in the world (wikipedia.org)
79 points by tshtf on March 11, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

"the most isolated tree on Earth[3] — the only one within more than 200 kilometres"

"The tree was allegedly knocked down by a drunk Libyan truck driver in 1973. "

Hitting the only tree in over 200km? That's pretty damn drunk.

I'm pretty sure drunkenness contributed more to being an asshole than clumsy driving in this case.

There's a 100 kilometre or so stretch of road on the Nullarbor plain (null arbor - no trees) that's completely straight.

There's also a solitary tree along that long straight stretch, and it's been crashed into a large number of times.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullarbor_Plain (no mention of the tree though)

I'm pretty pissed somebody knocked that tree down, and it is on the other side of the world. I can't imagine how pissed the locals were.

Sure hope, for his sake, the guy sobered up soon enough and got out of there before they found out who did it...

The story would be funnier if a drunk guy had planted a tree halfway between this tree and the nearest tree, thus ruining the record as "most isolated tree."

I have the same sentiments. I was going to say this is one of the saddest things I've ever read.

I was going to say this is one of the saddest things I've ever read.

Approximately 150,000 people died yesterday.

In fact, another dozen or so probably died while you were reading that sentence. If you were in a room with all the people dying at any given moment, you wouldn't even have time to meet their gaze to say "goodbye" fast enough to keep up.

That's a dozen thinking, breathing people, each with their own hopes and fears, memories and regrets. Many with friends and family who loved them deeply; children who'll never again see their mother's smile, wives who'll never again embrace their husband. Scores of people now grieving, and all kinds of friendships ended as each life fades into the night.

But, yeah. Shame about that tree, eh?

I don't mean this as a criticism of you personally; I had the same reaction to the destruction of the tree. It's just an interesting testament to the irrationality of the human emotional response that we feel sad for an unusual tree, but feel little for the immense magnitude of human loss that occurs constantly.

It's just an interesting testament to the irrationality of the human emotional response that we feel sad for an unusual tree, but feel little for the immense magnitude of human loss that occurs constantly.

Brings back memories of people getting upset about the dogs being killed in Wolfenstein 3D, but not the humans.

One tragedy does not make another tragedy less painful or profound.

The world is full of infinite joys and sorrows, and we can only focus on one at a time. That's the blessing and curse of being human.

So, tonight some of us grieve for a tree. You may grieve for other things if you choose, but that doesn't diminish our loss.

Perhaps none as unique as that tree.

Congratulations. You attach the lowest value to human life that I've heard assigned in all of 2010 so far.

Just to be clear, would you like to state a value in utilons for the tree and a value for each of the 150,000 lives lost in a day? Also, how unique does a human brain with 20 trillion synapses have to be before it is at least as unique as an unusually isolated tree? Very unique, apparently, if not one out of 150,000 people qualifies. That's more people than live in all of the city of Santa Clara. But then if everyone in Santa Clara died tomorrow, why, probably not a single one of them ever had a thought, a feeling, an unwritten poem, that was as worth preserving as a tree.

I'm sorry if I sound a little sharp here, but I wouldn't trade 150,000 trees for one human being. I am honestly horrified that at least nine other people voted you up.

This is a dangerous planet. Human beings should stick together.

Well, it was the last of a group of trees that grew there in the middle of a desert. It held meaning to those that passed it by in a trek across a desert to a point of superstition. It may have breathed the same air with animals that are no longer with us. I think that's pretty unique.

It's not that I don't think ~150,000 people dying is sad in its own way, I don't know that any random one of them are in the same unique position as being the last of something. Perhaps, sometimes, we get someone that dies who's the last speaker of a dying language, or the last in a lineage of a tribe. I'd say that's sad, in the way the last tree dying is sad.

Take any random 150,000 people dying, it too is sad, but not in the same way.

Of course, it's easier for us to sympathize with humans than it is with trees, because we too are human. It's also easier for us to think that human endeavors are also more important than non-human ones.

That misses the point that the tree being destroyed is not a commentary on the tree, but on humanity.

It would not be terribly sad if the tree just ran out of water and died. What is sad is that a human destroyed something unique and special in the natural world for presumably drunken amusement.

The value lost is in the cheapening of our humanity, not the death of a single plant.

Well, not all of us elevate humanity above the other life on this planet; indeed, some of the important problems we humans face today are a direct result of the kind of attitude that one human being is worth at least 150,000 trees - that is, that we feel freely able to take as much other life as we deem necessary for our survival.

This planet is indeed dangerous, but consider how much of that danger is caused by us and threatens both humans and other species. One of the things we could do to help change that would be to learn to see equivalent beauty and value in other life beyond our own.

Having some ecological sensitivity doesn't imply valuing trees (even 150'000 of them) more than human beings. On the contrary: the only value of those 150'000 trees is to enable us to live better, happier lives in a more human-friendly world.

Extreme statement: If there was a way to replace every single tree in the world with a plastic equivalent that looked and felt the same, and performed the same functions as a real tree (oxygen generation, soil processing, biological niche, etc).. if there was a way to do this and save a single human life, I would do it.

Whew, I wouldn't want to be THAT kid growing up. The one for whom all the trees in the world were killed.

You seem to elevate human life above all else. Religious reasons? Consciousness being inherently superior? I'd be interested to know the premises that leads to your conclusion.

The reasoning is relatively simple, and my conclusions and actions are not all that different from those of people who do respect and take care of the environment.

I believe very strongly that we humans will not be happy, nor even, probably, able to live, on a world without the eco-system we have around us. We need to preserve it, for our survival, our esthetic enjoyment, etc. However, what I believe equally strongly is that all of this comes down, ultimately, to us, and our subjective experience of the world.

There is no intrinsic value to anything outside of the human mind. Man is the measure of all things. As such, any action to preserve the environment must do so while preserving, above all else, human life, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and other core human values.

I fear that ecologism will grow into a movement that declares nature worth more than other core human values, including human life and freedom. I fear that ecologists will become oppressors, turning society against itself in a bid to "save the world", and thus entirely missing the point of saving the world (which is, to allow us humans to continue enjoying the world).

Is that clearer?

I don't find myself agreeing with your views (we could argue, but what's the point), but that's a pretty good explanation, thank you.

Killing 150.000 to save a human life doesn't sound like any religion I ever heard of. Religions are more concerned with saving souls and no amount of trees cut has ever saved a soul.

I was referring to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inviolability , but I'm sure there's a rich vein of religious thought that considers 1 human life more worthy of saving than any amount of non-human life.

> Having some ecological sensitivity doesn't imply valuing trees (even 150'000 of them) more than human beings

I didn't say that, you misread me I'm afraid. My point was that trees (as an example) are no less NOR more valuable than humans.

> the only value of those 150'000 trees is to enable us to live better, happier lives

Well, the appeal to self-preservation is better than no appeal at all, if it drives you to do the right thing. That said, what 'the right thing' is in this case is not well understood and I believe we should err on the side of sharing the space we have rather than trying to own it all.

That said, if you can't see the beauty and intrinsic value in the natural world then you have my pity.

I see plenty of beauty and intrinsic value in the natural world.

Don't get me wrong, my actions are not very different from yours. I support the idea (and practices) that we must treat the world better, that we must rein in pollution, that we should preserve existing species and natural habitats, etc.

The only difference is that because I come from a human-centric point of view ("all this only matters because it contributes to the existence and happiness of the human race"), I am strongly opposed to any measures that would oppress human beings to "save nature".

We need to get this balance right, and at the moment it's certainly too far in the "let's pollute everything" side - but that doesn't mean it won't swing equally far in the other direction, and when that happens, people will be oppressed and killed in the name of nature. And I feel that is fundamentally wrong, which is why I argue against blind ecologism, and towards a human-centric form of ecologism.

In other words, "Let's save the world, but for us, not for the world."

> My point was that trees are no less NOR more valuable than humans

Through inference, you are saying that the value of humans and the value of trees are equal. So, now, you need to define value.

I cannot think of any consistent definition of value, applied to the entire 'natural world,' that would make humans and trees worth the same.

And there is no reason that this value needs to be 'intrinsic.' Or, I think you're using the word to mean 'obvious' and 'simple.' It is simply valuable, and that's obvious. Am I right?

That's not a good way to go about it.

*Addendum: maybe if they were ents.

An excellent point. This whole thread is (I think necessarily) subjective, but I will do my best. I would also be interested to hear what the parents of this post mean when they refer to 'value'.

What inspired me to comment in the first place was the unquestioned assumption that saving a human life is always an acceptable motivation or excuse for (apparently) unbounded destruction of other life forms. This implies some sort of scale of relative worth with humans at the top, which guides us to make such decisions. My belief is that there should be no such scale - that is, it should never automatically be right to favour one life-form over another, whatever the species involved. Thus the inference that humans and trees have the same 'value'.

I'm sure if you ask the Ents, they would not find it acceptable to save themselves at the expense of the non-Ents ;-)

I think your assumption, that valuing human life more than trees instantly implies we should kill trees without end, is wrong. I have to throw my name in the hat for those who value a single human over 150,000 trees. That's saying that, were I forced to make a choice between shooting a human and cutting down 150,000 trees, I'd chop the trees.

Outside of that choice I don't think we should be killing humans, and the trees we chop should really only be for useful purposes. (i.e. not random chopping just because you can do it.) I'm for environmental protection stuff like mandating tree farms or replanting or (if we get far long in nanotech) simply 'creating' wood from dirt.

Of course you can muck up my values by throwing in effects, like if I cut down 150,000 trees then 30 humans die somehow, in which case I have to change my position and select the single human. (And you can further muck up values if that human is somehow more significant than the 30 others combined.) But in isolation, human > trees.

> I think your assumption, that valuing human life more than trees instantly implies we should kill trees without end, is wrong.... were I forced to make a choice between shooting a human and cutting down 150,000 trees, I'd chop the trees.

Could you elaborate on that because it sounds like you're contradicting yourself :-) Unless you're making the point that 150,000 != 'without end', in which case I would venture that 150,000 was originally just chosen as an arbitrary large number, and the two are therefore effectively equivalent in the context of this discussion.

And yes, when posed in the abstract, chopping the trees versus shooting the human is a different question as when posed in the real world - as I said previously, the balance of the Earth's macroscopic ecosystem is fiendishly complex and not well understood, so destroying the trees may indeed wreak all manner of havoc and result in the loss of other lives elsewhere, and/or at a later time.

That's not to say that I advocate shooting people either - I believe we must find ways to coexist with our surroundings.

I agree. My point in the beginning was to say just because I value a human life more than trees, doesn't mean I wish to go out and kill any trees I find for no good reason or without weighing things. The 150k number was in keeping with the thread's number of choice; it's not a sufficiently large number that I'd think twice about it, though if you bring in an unending amount we're talking about infinite value so...

Hope I've cleared it up a bit, it's early. ;)

You need to examine the trend of the planet and of the universe, of the 'natural world.'

This is going to be a pretty crazy flash-forward: when the universe began, it was sheer anarchy. Now, after billions of years of self organizing, here on Earth is the most structured thing in existence: our minds.

Alright, somebody else may have had a head start, but humans are still the most special thing on Earth.

We are important. This isn't arrogance. Everything leading up to us has played a part.

Placing us on the same level as trees is backwards, and it is not very useful. We need to understand our place in the universe, and Earth, and be responsible with respect it. No more rampant disrespect, like unchecked children.

So, in the grand scheme of things, we hold more value. The implications of this are good and don't mean we can do whatever we want.

> Placing us on the same level as trees is backwards, and it is not very useful thinking in those terms.

My turn to ask for some definitions - what do you mean by 'backwards', and 'useful'?

> We need to understand our place in the universe, and Earth, and be responsible with respect it

It's precisely my point that we, as a species, don't understand our place in the universe because we tend to inflate our importance with respect to it - indeed this was (is?) a cornerstone of some religion thought (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair).

If you take the view that self organisation/structure equates to relative importance, then, let's suppose a more 'highly evolved' alien race visited the Earth. Would you happily accept our new-found second place on the importance scale? How about if we develop a microchip more complex than the human brain (assuming that we have the capacity to do it)? Does that device become more important than a human being?

To me, the idea that all of Earth exists to support us is what I would call 'backwards'.

Sorry, I don't have the time to expand and, ultimately, we're talking about two different things.

If you like, you may do further reading on singularities. Not the black hole kind.

I'll see you around.

I look at "this whole thread," look at the orange bar at the top of the page and think, "no, wait this isn't reddit!"

I'm not certain exactly where your incisive satire is aimed, but "this whole thread" was not the right phrase for me to have used - I was really referring to the portion of the discussion starting from the immediate parent to my first comment on this story. Hope that clears it up for you!

No offense meant. I was really talking about the whole thread.

Equally extreme statement: I would go to war to stop you.

You're not alone, unfortunately. It's people like you, who value trees more than human beings, who are going to bring about the next variant of human oppression that will ruin millions of lives for no reason other than a false sense of "something more important than people", and be regarded as a dark chapter in human history.

What a load of old boots.

To value a planet's worth of trees over some cockamany plan to save a single human life doesn't infer valuing trees more than human beings.

I have no doubt you'll get your fake plastic trees as we simply won't have time to wait for an organic one to emerge from whatever primordial soup our descendants crash into. But until then, I'll happily bear your cross.

That "something more important than people" is actually... well... still people. If there aren't any trees left on this planet there probably won't be any people left here either.

Oh dear, well-meaning extremists. Scary bunch of people the lot of you.

Just you wait till the ecologists get in power, and we'll see exactly how many human beings equate to a tree.

The funny thing is, it is humans that made the tree special.

We measured the distance to it, we compared that distance to other trees, we invented photography and the internet so it could be looked at, we talk about it.

Exactly. To the tree and the rest of the universe...it was just a tree.

Don't know if anyone will see this comment, so long after the post came up, but I wanted to add that obviously this was not the saddest thing I have ever read, nor do I value trees more than human life.

There was, however, a dramatic mood shift when reading this article from 'Wow! That's awesome!' to 'Holy crap! It was destroyed by a drunk driver? That's terrible!'. In any case, I never expected such a dizzying comment thread to follow.

I feel the same way about drunk assholes shooting the caprocks off of these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasha-Katuwe_Tent_Rocks_Nationa...

In a random walk through wikipedia for 5 minutes, I stumbled on this other piece of six sigma tree news:


A thousand year old ginkgo was knocked down yesterday... I wonder how often 1000+ year old trees are felled?

One of my favorite episodes of Nova is about the scientist who picked a tree at random to cut and count rings. He was shattered when he found it was the oldest tree of them all, almost 5000 years old.



:-O I wonder if they could get a cutting from it at least.

Well, at least they replaced it with a 'metal sculpture resembling the tree', that'll learn the next drunken driver who drives over it on purpose!

So, just because the driver was drunk doesn't mean it was an accident. In fact, the odds against it being accidental are enormous considering how remote the area is.

You'd have to be pretty drunk to accidentally hit the most remote tree in the world. I can't decide if I'd have to be more or less drunk to do it on purpose.

This is actually a pretty likely occurrence when navigating. The tree serves as a landmark and if there are no objects in the field of view to serve as a visual reference one can lose all sense of perspective and collide with it.

"This was not the tree's first encounter with a truck."

If only the tree could talk...

"Go left. Go Left. Left. Left. GO LEFT. FUCK!"

I've always liked this wallpaper and now I know the whole story: http://www.vladstudio.com/wallpaper/?teneretree

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