Sunday, December 20, 2009

Destroying forests to save carbon emissions

"Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees", Bernd Heinrich, New York Times op-ed, Dec. 20, 2009:

Part of the problem is the public misunderstanding of how forests and carbon relate. Trees are often called a “carbon sink” — implying that they will sop up carbon from the atmosphere for all eternity. This is not true: the carbon they take up when they are alive is released after they die, whether from natural causes or by the hand of man. The only true solution to achieving global “carbon balance” is to leave the fossil carbon where it is — underground.

Beyond that, planting more trees is decidedly not the same thing as saving our forests. Instead, planting trees invariably means using them as a sustainable crop, which leads not only to a continuous cycle of carbon releases, but also to the increased destruction of our natural environment. ...

In fact, most of the problems with the system can be traced back to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997. After much political wrangling, the Kyoto delegates decided that there would be no carbon-reduction credits for saving existing forests. Since planting new trees does get one credits, Kyoto actually created a rationale for clear-cutting old growth.

This is horrifying. The world’s forests are a key to our survival, and that of millions of other species. Not only are they critical to providing us with building material, paper, food, recreation and oxygen, they also ground us spiritually and connect us to our primal past. Never before in earth’s history have our forests been under such attack. And the global-warming folks at Copenhagen seem oblivious, buying into the corporate view of forests as an exploitable resource.

A forest is an ecosystem. It is not something planted. A forest grows on its own. There are many kinds of forests that will grow practically anywhere, each under its own special local conditions. When a tree falls, the race is on immediately to replace it. In the forests I study, there so many seeds and seedlings that if a square foot of ground space opens up, more than a hundred trees of many different species compete to grow there.

So if you want to plant a specific species of tree for lumber or for offsets, you’ll have to apply an (petroleum-based) herbicide repeatedly over its lifespan. If you hope to make a profit, you will plant a tree genetically engineered to grow quickly and resist disease. This is the path to domestication of a plant that needs to be ever coddled with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. And not coincidentally, there will then be a market for its seeds, and all the chemicals needed to coddle the crop.

In the end, what was originally intended as a mechanism for slowing global warming has created huge economic pressure for ecocide. And there will be no objections from easily duped bleeding- heart “environmentalists,” who absolutely love tree planting because it sounds so “green.”

To preserve something it first has to be valued, and the most effective means of valuing it is to have a practical use for it. If the discussions in Copenhagen were any indication, mankind sees little value in forests, but much in tree plantations. ...

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, ecoanarchism