The Road To Aberdeen

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The notorious metallic monsters of the sci-fi movies are fictitious. At least, that's what they're supposed to be. But they're real. For if not monstrous, what are the machines used to cut the logs of Washington State into boards or reduce them down to a sticky pulp? These gigantic tools of destruction are both awful and scary, for they look like horrible monsters with fangs (possibly dripping poison), trying to inflict indescribable pain on things. We had to drive past a factory from the house that we were living in every time we wanted to go to Target or Wal-Mart, but no matter how many times I saw it, it remained a very distressing sight. The plants manufacture boards and planks that are either used locally, in other parts of the United States or shipped abroad. British Columbia, Canada, even manufactures chopsticks for Japan! As you read this, destruction is reigning as the trees, old and new alike, are being sawed down without regard to size, age, or any other category that they could fit into.

Yet that factory was not the worst factory we'd seen. Compared to the most horrible one that any of us had ever seen, that one could have been called environmentally-friendly!

Just outside of Olympic National Park, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, an almost unbelievable tragedy was -and is still- happening. Whole hillsides are getting completely destroyed, not to return for over a lifetime. Magnificent old-growth forests are being turned into devastated graveyards with unwanted trees strewn on the barren hillsides. As you drive through Olympic National Park, overwhelming numbers of 18-wheelers hurtle past, bearing loads of cut logs, many with clumps of moss still clinging to the mottled bark, to the factories where they are cut into boards or pulped into paper while the smokestacks are polluting in great puffs of smoke. And if you look across some lakes to the private property on the other side, the park border is marked by straight lines of trees. The private property is completely barren, having been clearcut by loggers. I found it disappointing when the Obama Administration, even though it is doing many things to help protect the environment, including a recent statement saying that no more roads could be built in national forests, recently approved a logging contract in a roadless Alaskan national forest. George Bush was going to build roads in several national forests to log, but I do not think that the national forests should be cut down, even to provide jobs. Some states use their forests as tourist attractions, generating jobs and money, and if they log it is very seldom and very little at a time. When we were driving towards Aberdeen, the hills were an awful shade of brown. Vast, depressing, and uninhabited, these hills hardly look like what they once were: shady forests where squirrels frisked and owls once swooped down from their perch in the high branches of firs, hemlocks, and spruce, in the soft, dusky evening light. This scene is now uncommon, found only in state and national parks. Now what is left of that landscape is a carpet of broken branches and wood chips with an occasional tiny tree, sprouted from a pinecone left behind or missed by the logger's chainsaws, still standing.

Yet the worst was still to come.

Just outside of Aberdeen, we saw it. We were on a concrete bridge spanning a river adjacent to it, and when we looked down we saw one of the most terrible sights possible to see in the entire state. We'd gotten used to seeing logs that were decaying into "nurse logs" in the rainforests all around the state, but most of those had fallen naturally. And they were only one at a time. What we saw was incomparably different. Huge piles of logs, the bark unevenly stripped off of them, sat in the largest lumberyard any of us had ever seen. To prevent shrinking, the logs had been misted with dirty water, staining them gray in irregular splotches. It was so atrocious that I could not bear to look at it any longer than I had to. It was the worst thing I'd ever seen. It still is.

In American folktales, loggers are made heroes by legend. Paul Bunyan, the famed "lumberjack," is actually considered a good guy because he could cut down hundreds of trees with one swing of his axe. But by destroying the trees, people are destroying themselves. These giants are the source of oxygen and without them we will not have so many renewable sources of fresh air in the world. As if to prove this point, many trees are endangered. The Bigleaf Mahogany, found in Central America, is number eight on the Top Ten Endangered Species list. This species of mahogany is very valuable-one square meter is generally 1,300 dollars.

This is an important issue and species will continue to lose their habitat, resulting in many going extinct. Every second, an area of the Amazon rainforest the size of one and a half football fields is burned to make room for farmland. People must react to this ongoing injustice, or we will have a plain, ugly, and lifeless world. Today millions of trees are being sliced up into useless furniture that no one needs, into wood pellets for wood-burning stoves, and into a thousand other things that are unnecessary.  Having a little wood furniture is not terrible, but buying more than you really need is. Instead of wood-burning stoves, which not only use wood but also pollute, electric heaters or, even better, wearing sweaters are much better alternatives. Even pencils use much more wood than buying mechanical pencils and refilling them, in which case the only wood is in the cardboard packaging. (If possible, buy things with the least packaging possible.) It is very important to conserve this resource, for if this devastating logging continues, the hillsides will be gray, global warming will not end, and millions of animals, both known and unknown to science, will become extinct. Because today we are headed down the infamous road to Aberdeen.

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2 Comments

Your blog really got me scared. I'm scared that there are really people that think like you. I feel bad that your are getting brainwashed by your parents. Trees are one of the most abundant natural RENEWABLE resources in the world. Forest management in the US is probably the most environmentally friendly in the world. It is people like you who force logging to other countries where it is left unregulated- resulting in mass destruction of rainforest. Because hypocrites like you are not going to stop using wood and it has to come from somewhere. Oh and by the way, an untouched forest doesn't do anything to reduce atmospheric carbon. The carbon absorbed in photosynthesis reappears just as quick when the wood decays or burns. I can't believe you are an advocate of turning on an electric heater when most electricity in the US is produced by coal power! And that precious mechanical pencil is made out of plastic-a much more environmentally friendly product-NOT! I admire your passion- I just wish it was more educated.

To begin with, I am not against using wood from tree farms, where they replant the trees and do not cut many down at a time. But what I saw in the Pacific Northwest was very different. It was not at all regulated. In fact, the logging companies had destroyed old-growth forests, which were composed of 500 year old trees. But now those are gone, and the younger trees are getting cut down in their places. Although the United States handles the logging better than many other countries, Canada’s selective logging is more green than clearcutting.

Second, coal-burning plants aren’t environmental, but solar power and wind energy are good alternatives. I think that it is important to continue research in those fields, so that more and more of our electricity comes from sources which are not detrimental to the environment.

Third, trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Carbon dioxide is the second biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect. Some trees live for thousands of years, and when they decompose they become nurse logs, whose nutrients help raise mosses, ferns, and saplings - all of which take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. And if global warming did not exist, there would be fewer forest fires because places with Mediterranean climates like CA and Greece are too dry. Many more forest fires are caused by people who are careless with their campfires or other sparks. The trees do help the environment, but global warming - caused in part by the smoke emitted by the logging factories - does not. Global warming inhibits the winters from becoming as cold as they once were. Throughout western North America, pine beetles are surviving the winters because it is not getting cold enough to kill them. Therefore, the carbon from the dead trees will contribute to the greenhouse gases. None of this, however, would have happened had global warming not existed.

Fourth, mechanical pencils are better than wooden ones if you refill them with specially made refill leads, sold by companies for that purpose. Instead of using the wood, erasers and metal necessary to make a traditional pencil, mechanical pencils use materials once, and then can be used again and again.

Lastly, I am not being “brainwashed” by anyone. My mom has her own blog, in which she also wrote about this issue, but hers is not as strongly worded as mine is. See: http://www.globeschooling.com/2009/04/travel-logging-beetle-mania-leaves-tweens-pining.html

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This page contains a single entry by Jaz Brisack published on September 18, 2009 1:07 AM.

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