The Mysterious Life (and Death) of Africa’s Oldest Trees

Nature Baobab Tree Africa Tanzania Safari

Baobab tress are fascinating. Some can be more than 1000 years old.

Trees—sometimes felled, sometimes planted, sometimes accidental witness to history—provide a setting always growing imperceptibly in the background. We plant trees for resources, shade, sustenance. We often kill trees with intention and purpose: for shelter, for warmth, for paper, for soap, for winter rituals, for clogs, for furniture. But with baobabs, we’re watching in exasperation as they fold on their own. The description of fallen giant trees struck a chord globally, even though the baobab grows mostly in Africa, Australia, and India. (There are a few in Hollywood, Florida, and in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where the synthetic spectacle—the Tree of Life—lights up in neon and glitz.) Speaking anthropomorphically, the baobab is the charismatic megafauna of botany, so its fall seems to portend our own.

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Jaime Lowe — Topic

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The 62-Year-Old Child Genius


The adult life of a child genius.

Prodigious intelligence is special, but, as Andrew Solomon writes in Far From the Tree, his 2013 book on exceptional children, the burden of being gifted or being labeled as such can sometimes feel more like a disability. (The word prodigy derives from the Latin prodigium, which means “omen” or portent,”  but can also mean “monster.”) Stanley personally recognized the challenge of being understimulated by an educational system designed for normalcy, and he knew that a small percentage of school-aged children struggled with tedium and frustration.

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Peter Andrey Smith — Topic

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