Ladders To Heaven

By Mike Shanahan

How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future

Friday, 10 April 2015

Ladders to Heaven: Sneak preview of the chapters

Hello again

It is time for a quick update.

Ladders to Heaven is now 57% funded!  I want to say a BIG thank-you to all you for your support so far. Please do continue to spread the word. The sooner we reach 100%, the sooner the book will be born.

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the chapters (as they currently stand).

Chapter 1: Trees of Life, Trees of Knowledge
I will show you how fig trees inspired the co-founder of the theory of evolution, how they feature in the creation myths of diverse religions and cultures, and how these two facts are connected.

Chapter 2: Bloodshed and Enlightenment
I will show you how people have revered one special fig species in Asia for more than 5000-years. You will meet the Buddha and a bloodthirsty dictator. I will tell the tale of a fig tree that has travelled thousands of kilometres and been made a king, has helped spread a philosophy of peace and had its flesh torn by hot bullets during a brutal massacre.

Chapter 3: The Banyan and the Birth of Biology
You hear how fig trees influence the founders of biology, more than 2300 years ago in Greece. You will hear how Alexander the Great encountered a fig tree in India so big that thousands of his soldiers could camp beneath it, and how British colonialists later turned these symbols of life into agents of death.

Chapter 4: Sex and Violence in the Hanging Gardens
You will find out how the 80-million year-old partnership between fig trees and tiny wasps will influence the fates of forests and wildlife across the tropics. This story is surely one of the most astounding in all of biology. It is one of the most important as well, for without these tiny creatures and their interactions with fig trees, the world as we know it would not exist.

Chapter 5: The Restaurants of the Rainforest
I’ll show you why figs are the most important fruit for sustaining wildlife and why this has big ramifications for the world’s forests. I’ll take you to Borneo where I lived in a national park for 18 months studying dozens of wild fig species and the animals that disperse their seeds.

Chapter 6: From Dependence to Domination
I’ll show you how fig trees played crucial roles in human evolution and cultural development, as sources of food, medicine and more. You will meet dinosaurs and ape-men, ancient royalty and strange spirits. I will explain timeless wisdom of letting fig trees stand tall.

Chapter 7: Sharp Knives Cut Deep Roots
You will find out how fig trees connect a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Queen Elizabeth II and a Kenyan man with a price on his head. You’ll meet fig trees that served as a temple, a post office and a seemingly miraculous source of water.

Chapter 8: Goodbye to the Gardeners, Hello to the Heat
I’ll explain how climate change, hunting and deforestation threaten the 80-million year long reign of the fig trees, and what this could mean for us.

Chapter 9: Once Destroyed, Forever Lost?
I’ll show you how fig trees could give yet provide us with their greatest gifts, if we learn the lessons their biology can teach. I will tell you about the Time of Darkness, take you to volcanoes where fig trees have helped rebuild forests and share the story of a scientist with a vision of robots in rainforests.


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