A couple of months ago, a world atlas from the 40’s. was circulating around our office. One of the categories about each country was “natural resources”. In the past, I remember it used to be a good thing for a country to have natural resources, but it seems like now they are to be protected and if a country needs to use them, they should be imported from other countries. Since it seems like people not using resources at all (at least in this astral plane ;)) is fairly impossible.
Bruce Ward, in an op-ed in today’s Denver Post, asks the same question, but just about trees and wood.
Here’s the link.
Guest Commentary: Harvesting, replanting best way to a healthy forest
Posted: 04/28/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
By Bruce Ward
The smoke is gone, but the fear remains.
We have lived in Denver’s “wildland urban interface” for decades because of our love of Colorado’s beauty, but now the yearly “fire watch” causes us pause as we hold our breath, hoping the forest around us doesn’t burn.
The most recent fire — the Lower North Fork — claimed three lives, destroyed or damaged 23 homes and charred more than 1,400 acres.
The obvious question is: “Who is to blame?” Yet we should also ask: “Why are we suffering such fire catastrophes?”
The good news: We reduce or prevent future fires by promoting forest health. The bad news: We may have to give up the easy answers of either blaming one person for “setting” each fire; and there is nothing we can do to prevent these fires. Understanding the cause and addressing it give us the ability to stop tragic fires.
We need to stop thinking trees live forever. Like all living things, they have finite life spans. This radical idea of recognizing the cycle of life means forest health is contingent on new trees. This requires us to challenge our belief that cutting trees is not “environmental” or “green.” The old ethos of “let nature take its course” and “in 500 years, the Earth will have healed itself” must be seen as flawed.
The problem has roots from when the West was being settled and clear- cutting was considered expedient and necessary. We were more focused on creating a civilized West. The unintended consequence of endless fire suppression is now manifesting itself.
Native Americans commonly set fires every spring, knowing it kept the trees and animals within the areas stronger. They saw fire as a tool used extensively before the white man’s encroachment and restrictions.
The documented excesses of tree harvesting without environmental limits in the 19th and 20th centuries created a culture that reacted by believing that cutting any tree was sacrilege, using products made from trees wasteful and uneducated.
People then believed that tree-killers should feel guilty about their role in hastening the destruction of our planet.
We know many trees in nature would have life spans not much longer than the longest living human, yet we protect geriatric trees whose very nature is turning them toward fire and replacement. We can see the effects all around us as nature pushes to return to a balance allowing new trees to replace the old.
The time has come to dispel that well-intentioned but wrong environmentalist mantra that forbids killing trees and realize that interfering with nature is what creates the problem.
Now is the time to embrace a new environmentalist culture that embraces planting new trees; that enjoys wood products from local sources because they come from renewable resources; provide jobs to rural economies; and most important brings our environment back into balance.
Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman asked me to help increase awareness of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and engage the private sector in finding solutions to deal with millions of acres of pine trees dying and turning brown — our own potential “Katrina of the West.”
I reached out to stakeholders who shared views on the complexity and unprecedented magnitude of the epidemic. I found caring citizens who were using Rocky Mountain Blue Stain wood, a community of environmentalists, lumbermen, builders, lumber yards, pellet mills, and furniture-makers, all working together to take our blue wood and turn it into products that would help the forest heal.
But even these efforts struggle against the mistaken belief that using wood is somehow bad.
The time is now to change decades of outmoded public perception that the only good forestry goal is to let our forests age, and realize how sustainable forestry is married to utilizing wood products in order to plant and grow new trees.
Bruce Ward is the founder of Choose Outdoors and a White House Champion of Change for Rural America. He lives in Pine.
Meanwhile, a colleague ran across this highly green (and expensive) car which advertises that it uses “, and rescued wood trim retrieved from the 2007 firestorm in Orange County, California.” I guess one person’s “rescue” is another person’s “salvage.” The whole question of “when it’s OK to use wood” seems to be worthy of further exploration; it has a variety of social, philosophical and environmental implications that we could potentially parse out.