Thursday, November 05, 2015

our forests...

 I am off from school this week due to fall break, and have been attending to a long list of small projects. Yesterday I used the tractor to carry leaves from the yard into the forest, and used the return trips to carry firewood to the wood pile for splitting after the weather turns cool.

It has been unseasonably warm in Arkansas, and while I know there are many who deny the relationship between burning fossil fuels and global warming, I am no skeptic of science.

I find it odd that the same folks who deny the research done on climate, still watch the nightly weather report, and check their iPhones for the latest predictions, both of which are based on the same computer modelling technology that helped climate scientists understand what we are doing to our planet.

Exxon Mobil Oil Co. had been the first to predict the massive changes and then spent hundreds of millions to seed doubt. Perhaps their long-term planners saw some benefit to melting the polar ice caps, and were afraid that our concerns for the overall health of the planet would get in their way.

Richard Bazeley sent the one photo of loggers and child with a huge log from the early days of the Australian timber industry. Cutting down a massive tree of that size might give a man a sense of pride accomplishment. But to remove whole forests of such massive trees that took thousands of years to grow gives cause for deep regret. The postcard at the top is from the early part of the 20th century in Arkansas showing enormous white oak logs. If you look carefully at the center of the photo, you can see a human being dwarfed by the massive logs on each car. Judging from the individual's height, each log would be nearly 6 feet in diameter and at least 20 feet long.  White oaks of that size can longer be found in Arkansas. It has been said that in the early days of pioneer settlement of Arkansas, the trees were so large and the shade so deep that there were few understory trees and one could ride on a horse at through the forest at full speed. I wondered that that could be possible as I tried to steer the Kubota through a tangle of brush.   I also hope that my own small swath of forest can be returned to better health. But for a mature hardwood forest to grow can take a hundred years or more, and global warming may have a more pressing effect.

When I first moved to Arkansas, huge swaths of land were being cleared for pasture, and in the city limits of Eureka Springs, trees were being pushed into ravines and burned so that gas stations could be built. South of Eureka Springs, large forest tracts were being sprayed with an agent orange related chemical to kill hardwoods so that faster growing pines might take over. My own response to that onslaught was to carefully use Arkansas hardwoods so that others might discover their beauty. Craftsmanship is one good way to express caring and value.

People think of wood workers as being those who use our forest resources. I have another view. We are stewards who interpret forest resources so that others have a window of understanding that might lead them to reconsider before wasting it all.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

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