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Does Logging Cause Global Warming?

It’s a good question.  My gut/knee jerk reaction is, No.  But lets look at some bits and pieces of experience and such nonsense I use to come to that conclusion.

First, I live in the Pacific Northwest.  Logging has been part of life here since pioneers settled this region.  In the early days logging was done for materials and to clear land.  The resource seemed infinite to them.  Over time lessons have been learned.  As logging techniques and technology has improved the amount of harvesting we can do, the limited size of the resource started to become clear.  Where trees were harvested before and the forest left to regrow on it’s own, someday, now there are about 6 seedlings planted for each mature tree harvested.  The time frame is about two to three years for replanting a clear-cut.  Most of the trees harvested today are not the huge old growth trees that were harvested in the past.  Now most trees harvested are 35 to 50 years old.  They run 3 or 4 feet in diameter at the butt.  Many are even smaller than that, being 18 inches on the butt.  Old growth trees that are harvested are not in high demand.   They are harvested for the health of the forest overall.  They are not in demand because most mills have been retooled to handle small logs.  The big logs simply won’t fit.  This is the modern way of logging here.  It is based on harvesting trees from areas that have been replanted and will be replanted for a future harvest down the road.

The concern about deforestation is normally centered on the Rainforest’s of Brazil and other South American nations.  It is clear to me that there is a real problem with the way the forests are managed down there.  They are not focused on future forests to meet future demand, but only on the money they can make by cutting trees now.  The problem is a made worse because of slave labor practices by loggers there and the illegal cutting done by people only focused on the here and now.

Is it a real problem?  Yes of course.  However, in statements made by various people on the issue they seem to focus on stopping logging altogether.  Trying to work against all of that inertia in a goal like that will make the goals set up by environmentalists unattainable.  What we need is to push for good forest management.  It does not throw their economy under the bus and gives them a reachable goal of sustainable logging practices. 

In my experience, working within the limits of reason and common sense, makes a difficult goal much more attainable.  If the people want to make real change they (we) have to be realistic about what change we can shoot for.  The real problem lies first with the government and second with their culture.  It is not easy to change so much in a short time frame and I would say it will not change until they see the problems they are causing themselves.  By taking an adversarial tact on these issues, we are likely only to delay a change of heart rather than speed it forward.

All of that having been said, is logging causing Global Warming.  Well, if it is we are in real trouble.  You live in a structure of some type I would guess.  What should it be built of.  Cement, steel, or wood.  Two of those materials are mined, and nonrenewable.  One is renewable and sustainable.  Guess which one.  Next time it’s raining or freezing, try going outside for just one day and you will see why logging is important to your well being.  The United States is capable of supplying our economy with enough lumber and plywood to meet our demands and we have more trees in Oregon than when Lewis and Clark stopped by for a visit.  Logging can be done right and it can be done for the long term.

The amount of deforestation that has occurred is not insignificant but to say it is causing the temps to rise on a global scale seems a bit far-fetched.  Why is it when we see a problem that should be addressed, there is always some group who thinks it is a looming catastrophe of the highest magnitude.  Can’t the problem be of normal size with reasonable solutions on the table instead of the looming end of life argument.  This exaggeration is a technique designed to end debate.  Like the boy who cried wolf, it will be used too many times.  One day a real disaster may loom and we will ignore the warnings.  Instead of being an impossible problem to solve, it will be simple.  It might be ignored because of this kind of grand standing.  Does that prove that logging doesn’t cause Global Warming.  No.  But if it causes Global Warming the solution will be one type or another of suicide.  The assumption we should carry with us on such adventures is that life must go on.  If we can’t agree on that, we are not going to agree on any solutions.



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