(Old Site Re-post from February 18, 2008)
OK, I know there have been terrible, terrible instances of clearcutting and other denuding practices in our nations’ forest. By now, America must be practically out of of timber, right? WRONG! Today, we have more standing timber in the USA than we did when the first white men arrived. In fact, there are about 60 tons of standing timber for every person in the USA! That’s a lot of timber, enough to build a 3000 square foot house of solid wood for every person–man, woman, and child! In other words, it’s more timber than we can actually use, ever! Why? Because every forest that is cut down is replaced with an engineered forest, in which the trees grow straighter and taller and faster because of correct planting.
But, you say, we are cutting up all the old growth trees, and we just won’t have any left, so we should leave them alone. WRONG! The problem with leaving the old growth alone is that it just dies and falls over. This kills delicate top soils, greatly increases fire danager, and allows billions of board feet prime wood to go to waste. No, we should not cut all the old growth, just the old growth that needs to be cut.
Ever flown over the Western States? There are thousands of miles of forest! How many clear cuts can you see? Have you ever seen any? Even areas that are totally burned out by fire have bounced back in a couple of decades.
So, what is the problem? Well, one problem might be that people don’t live where the trees are. They think that because there are few trees in their choking metropoli that trees must be going extinct. (By the way, the people who scare you into believing there are no trees are usually the ones who live in the nice houses, surrounded by trees, where you are not welcome.) But, hey, that’s why most cities have parks. They know it’s impractical for you to keep trees where you reside, so they make tree zoos, er, parks, where you can go and pet the trees, even hug them if you want. Or just sit under their cool shade and enjoy yourself. Of course, on really hot days, everyone wants to hug the trees at once. If you think there are not enough trees to go around on those days, well, join the arbor society and plant a few more. They are pretty low-maintenance, as pets go. Besides, you’ll be helping to eat up all that nasty CO2 everyone’s always talking about.
Now, there is a sad reality in cities, I must admit. Take, for instance, Los Angeles, where 75% of the surface area is paved. Doesn’t seem to leave much room for trees, does it? Well, there are certain types of trees that need about 10-20 sq. ft. of space on the ground that can reach 50+ ft. in diameter up above. Heck, when I lived in Milwaukee as a kid, where everyone has dinky yards, we had to go to the parks to get away from trees if we wanted to get some sun. Too bad Dutch Elm disease wiped out most of the trees. But in a couple more decades the new ones will be just a big.
Over the last 7 years, I’ve removed 25 of the 26 trees in my yard. (Well, three of them actually fell down first, and the neighbor cut down 8 or ten for me.) They were poor quality, clumped together, poor roots, starved for sunlight. They’ll be replaced with proper trees, maybe oak or elm, space to spread out healthy and strong, place to provide good shade in the summer. (I think I hear fifes playing in the distance.) Trees that will stand hundreds of years, longer than the houses, and, when their time on earth is over, provide enough good wood to replace the houses with much better houses. And I will hug them and groom them. Maybe I’ll even put a rope swing on a branch and a tree house atop the trunk. The tree won’t mind. It will know that it’s loved.
Yes, I love trees, but trees are a resource. When you think about it, trees are just humongous broccoli in a way. I love broccoli, too, but that doesn’t stop me from eating it.. I know I can’t let it grow forever, or it will be completely useless to me. I also know that there will be more broccoli next year. I can’t allow myself to get attached to the broccoli, or I will starve to death. Now many people will say that it’s not a fair comparison, because trees can live thousands of years, and therefore the trees have squatter’s rights. I have never heard any tree cry because I cut down its neighbor, but I have heard a few sigh in relief at finally having enough room to breath.
Let’s face it. It sentimental nonsense. It’s allowing your judgment to be clouded by emotional appeals and not knowing the facts. It’s illogical, and unethical. If you really loved trees, you’d prune them, cut out the dead growth and the overgrowth–even if that is the whole tree. Love trees? Get a chainsaw.
- N.J. researchers trying to revive American chestnut trees (nj.com)
- Fewer trees dying from beetles in Western forests (kjct8.com)
- tribute to trees (sharingloveandtruth.org)