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Such longevity also lends tangible wisdom to our investigations of the past. You may remember from high school biology the tiny stomata on the undersides of leaves, pores responsible for sucking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Leaves grow fewer when there are high concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and since ginkgos have existed for millennia virtually unchanged, climate researchers use them as a biological measuring stick. By digging up ancient fossil ginkgos, we can literally draw the past’s climate, through its highs and lows, by counting stomata. If I’d bothered to save any of the ginkgo pressings I did as a student, they would resemble those of younger trees on a macro scale, but they would project different memories through a microscope. For whatever reason, this image grounds me. I think we hear too much talk of innate short-sightedness, our inability to retain a history lesson, when we each carry a raw appetite for the past—appetites that compels us to remember ginkgo seeds fondly or stand in the rain trying to reconstruct a dull memory. And what a boon! We are surrounded by time-travelers, if only we would listen. I don’t own a microscope, but I do carry a cell phone, and I’ll extend my thanks here to Ginkgo biloba and its putrid fruit, for backing my mother up and reminding me to call my sister. d

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Ecotone 2013 Body & Environment  

The journal of the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program

Ecotone 2013 Body & Environment  

The journal of the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program

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