Forests: Our Last, Best Hope Up in Smoke

When I end up with 80% of an online article highlighted in Diigo, that tells me this is something I think is significant and worth passing along, even when I feel generally like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. So let me start with this quote toward the end of this piece called Deforestation: The Hidden Cause of Global Warming from the Independent/UK.

“In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security – while there’s money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it’s obvious that the forest will take the hit.”

What’s the so-what? Only this:

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth’s equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.

How much CO2 are held by forest that is likely to be burned in the coming four years? Oh, not so much:

Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.

But hey: there are no multinational corporations made fat by NOT “harvesting” this “crop.” I mean, they’re only trees. They just sit there and take up space where we could put a shopping mall; or make a pasture to raise cheap beef for Triple Patty Cheeze Croissants.

I think, dear folks, we are doomed. If we can’t simply passively accept the benefits of something as elemental as the environmental services of a self-sustaining scrubber for the environment we have in what forests we have left.

A couple of you out there, please take a look at this.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. i will, fred…but what is a person to do? it’s hard to feel like measly ole’ me can make much of a difference…..

  2. Aren’t we a woeful lot? But I must admit I’m with both bluemountain’s “measly ole’ me” and your own “we’re doomed”… let’s hope that’s just a gut reaction, but I just can’t imagine the Big Rich Nations will be willing to fork over enough … not only to offset the market value of these forests, but also to pay the epic costs to police against would-be tree poachers… Clearly, whatever measly ole’ us are to do, it will have to involve a (fiercely) political element. Suggestions, Fred?

  3. We are, as you say, doomed. It is not so much a matter of what, but when. The things that keep me going are knowing that I probably won’t be alive when it get’s really bad, and the strong suspicion that there’s “something else” beyond what we can see.

    It is the children and grandchildren of our generation that will be confronted, squarely, with the consequences of what we have done to the environment. We have seen nature in her glory, but they will see her in her fury.

    It will be our doing, but they will pay the price. Personally, I saw it coming 35 – 40 years ago. I made the decision, at that time, not to have any children. I didn’t want them to go through the suffering that is definitely to come.

    We had a chance to turn it all around when the first Iranian oil embargo was staged. Instead, as soon as the crisis passed we built SUVs and went back to our wasteful ways. Now, I really think it is too late. We’ve stepped in a pile of poo, and we can’t find our way out.


  4. Here’s my reply to bluemtmama last night…

    It’s certain that if we are ignorant of the problem we are part of it. At least informed, and spreading the word in ways never before possible–as measly ole bloggers–we can say down the road we did what we could to be a voice of earth-justice and stewardship.

    Collectively, we may have more power than we realize. Or not.

    I don’t suppose I’ll live to see the consequences of our decisions or failures to decide. But my children and grandchildren surely will. This makes me more prone to become active than to become passive, and hopefully I can pass that on.

    And…thanks, Andy, I first read Paul Hawken’s work way long ago, and have seen reviews of Blessed Unrest, and (along with Bill McKibben’s book, Deep Economies, that sits on my desk) I need to hear hopeful, knowledgeable words of vision for a future that is becoming increasingly discouraging to watch unfold.

  5. Geez guys. Depressed much?

    A. The whole “lungs of the planet thing? Widespread, but Booshwa.

    B. The higher a country’s GDP, the better off their forests are. There’s even a magic number at which forests begin to return. If you want to make a difference, look for eco-friendly products from developing nations with GDPs close to the magic number, like Indonesia. I prefer the Nature Conservancy, myself.

    Hope springs eternal for a reason. It comes from humans.

    Hey Fred!

  6. Hi Ya, Bigwig, good to have you stop by!

    I didn’t coin the visceral comparison, and am, in the end, less saddened by the end of rain forests because of elemental reasons–O2 and CO2–than by their loss for their own sake, and all they contain, in a mere few generations.

    It’s like selling the foundation to pay off the mortgage.

    Yes, there is hope in people, while far too many on our highly-peopled planet are without much hope unless they exploit the very ground under their feet.

    I’ll wait for Indonesia to see the light (through the thick smoke of what used to be their forests.) And meanwhile, let’s find out where all that wood (that isn’t simply burned) is being marketed. The local Lowes or Home Depot, perhaps?

    Encouraging to find many big building supply houses are becoming socially aware and responsible and refusing rainforest woods. However, the alternative to “cheap” and “local” building material is the rapidly dwindling boreal forest of Canada.