Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is Logging the Answer to Global Warming?
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore [UPDATE: As Doug points out in comments, Moore may be a co-founder but left the group in 1986 and now heads an advocacy group created by the forest industry. He now claims to be in favor of "consensus" not "confrontation" in merging the interests of industry and environment, a position that - I'm guessing - pays better.] says that we are being short-sighted (specifically, the new film The 11th Hour - which I haven't seen yet) in demonizing the logging industry, when, in fact, replacing old trees that are done growing with young ones would be a much more efficient way to soak up carbon with our forests.
To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends a signal to the marketplace to grow more trees and to produce more wood. That means we can then use less concrete, steel and plastic -- heavy carbon emitters through their production. Trees are the only abundant, biodegradable and renewable global resource.

DiCaprio's movie, The 11th Hour, is another example of anti-forestry scare tactics, this time said to be "brilliant and terrifying" by James Christopher of the London Times.

Maybe so, but instead of surrendering to the terror, keep in mind that there are solutions to the challenges of climate, and our forests are among them.
I don't know whether he's right - in fact I doubt that his answer is all that helpful - but it reminds of one thing that is definitely true when it comes to the complex array of factors contributing to the climate crisis: the obvious response may not be the solution. Planting new trees and ending the practice of cutting down old ones might make lots of sense. But if that comes at the expense of more steel and plastic production, it's at least conceivably a net loss - a calculation worth considering.

So, why do I doubt the helpfulness of Moore's particular critique? His solution has its own problems. Does the timber industry replenish forests at a sustainable rate? How much of the wood they cut down is actually turned into furniture or other biodegradable items, and how much is burned, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere? How much carbon is emitted through the logging process? What is the environmental effect of the chemicals and paint used to treat the wood that is consumed in the marketplace? The more I read, the more I'm convinced to claim humble ignorance about how to proceed...the calculations required for a proper ethical decision here are terribly complex, most variables I'm not even capable of imagining, and surely many important ones haven't yet been conceived by anyone. Drive less, use less coal-powered, gas-powered, oil-powered energy, and vote for the candidates who most care to think through systemic solutions for this systemic crisis. That's all I feel sure about.

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