If you’ve ever been to Sequoia National Park and seen the giant redwoods, Galadriel’s tree-city of Lothlorien should be no surprise. There is a majestic beauty to old trees — the slow incremental growth sucking matter from the air and soil, surviving fires and storms, pests and competition — let alone their towering presence and kinship with the sun. Take it to the extreme, and you have these millenia-old trees that are taller than a 20-story building.

These trees can capture 250 tons of CO2 over their lifetime, whereas a regular tree might only capture 1 ton of CO2 from sapling to dust. Although most of the biocapture of CO2 occurs in the ocean, the idea of utilizing giant trees for housing is kinda cool, likely has benefits for the watershed and surrounding ecosystem, and might even allow for more efficient heating and cooling.

Of course, there are a million problems with this idea, aside from the fact that people tend not to want to live among bugs, and the gains versus regular timber as a carbon sink are probably minimal. It’s a fun thought experiment nonetheless, so here goes:

The elves, being immortal, likely had no problem finding suitable hosts or waiting to make their housing appear. For trees to be load bearing, they need to be a certain size, and thus usually they require being at least a certain age. Requiring X number of trees in a certain configuration or area capable of being built around is not economical if it’s simply a matter of luck, and the forests of suitable age to have sufficiently large trees are (hopefully) not prime urban residences. Maybe we could gene-splice some bamboo to increase the speed of growth, inject CO2 to dope-up the photosynthesis and expose the saplings to plant hormones like ethylene and giberellic acid. There’s always MiracleGro.

Maybe foundations and suitable soil (compost!) could incorporate reclaimed materials as a skeleton for electric, water, and ductwork. We’d probably need some type of chemical application or semi-routing Bonsai-like pruning to prevent structural flaws (Woodcutting roomba-sloth, anyone?), constriction of water mains and such — unless, of course, there was a way to use the xylem for our purposes…What happens if a tree-support dies. or gets infected?

Maybe we start off with artificial replacements, polymer casts or concrete pours with reinforcement, maybe there are quick-growing vines or foams or fungi that can patch holes — maybe there are canopy mirrors for lights and anteaters and aardvarks that can prevent termite damage.

The native americans had elven ingenuity without immortality or magic, without modern technology and the timeless nature of the written word and collective power of the world wide web. We can do better.

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