Saturday, November 15, 2008

Former Environmentalists Speak Out

Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace, and Bjorn Lomborg, former 4-year member of Greenpeace, Associate Professor of Statistics, and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist have disclosed that the old messages of environmental doom and gloom are nothing but exaggerations and myths. They are speaking out against what they once believed as true. That overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, global warming, and a variety of other environmental propaganda are unsupported by analysis of the relevant data.

The truth of it is that our planet is God's gift to mankind to use within the context of what God produced. The landscape God created is our gift to help us survive. To stand in the way of this noble task, like extreme environmentalists have done, is doing an injustice not only to the environment's natural function, local economies, and global demands, but most importantly to God, Who produced all of our forests, rivers, fertile fields, and streams for our sustainable utilization of the resources these environments produce.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, describes the litany of global doom and gloom we have all heard over the decades by the media and environmental activists from groups such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, and Wildlife Institute saying, "There is just one problem: it does not seem to be backed up by the available evidence." In Patrick Moore's article Trees Are the Answer, Moore explains his own position in the following excerpts:

"We cannot simply switch to basing all our actions on purely environmental values. Every day 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy and materials.

When foresters create openings or clearcuts when they harvest trees, one of the reasons for doing it is so the new trees growing back can be in full sunlight. Trees are basically plants that want to be in the sun. If trees wanted to be in the shade they would have been shrubs instead, they would not have spent so much time and energy growing long wooden stems.

During the past three years I have asked the World Wildlife Fund on many occasions to please provide me with a list of some of the species that have supposedly become extinct due to logging. They have not offered up a single example as evidence. In fact, to the best of our scientific knowledge, no species has become extinct in North America due to forestry.

The spotted owl is one of the many species that was never threatened with extinction due to forestry, and yet in the early 1990's, 30,000 loggers were thrown out of work in the US Pacific Northwest due to concern that logging in the National Forests would cause the owl’s extinction. Since that time, in just a few short years, it has been shown by actual field observations that there are more than twice as many spotted owls in the public forests of Washington state than were thought to be theoretically possible when those loggers lost their jobs.

So the general public is being given the impression, by supposedly reputable sources such as the New York Times and National Geographic that forestry is a major cause of species extinction when there is actually no evidence to support that position.

The Sierra Club says, "You don't need a professional forester to tell if a forest is mismanaged - if a forest appears to be mismanaged, it is mismanaged." They want you to believe that the ugly appearance of a recently harvested forest is synonymous with permanent destruction of the environment. And yet, the unsightly sea of stumps is not nuclear waste or a toxic discharge, it is 100 percent organic, and will soon grow back to a beautiful new forest again. All the same, the fact that recently harvested areas of forest appear ugly to our eyes makes for very effective images in the hands of anti-forestry activists.

The way we think the land should look often has more to do with personal and social values than anything to do with biodiversity or science. We tend to idealize nature, as if there is some perfect state that is exactly right for a given area of land. There are actually thousands of different combinations of species at all different stages of forest growth that are perfectly natural and sustainable in their own right. There is nothing better about old trees than there is about young trees. Perhaps the ideal state is to have forests of all ages, young, medium, and old in the landscape. This will provide the highest diversity of habitats and therefore the opportunity for the largest number of species to live in that landscape.

If a person strongly believes that forestry is bad because it is ugly, no amount of technical and scientific information will cause them to change their mind. First they must understand that the look of the land is not sufficient, in itself, to make judgments about ecology.

All this controversy, political pressure, and near-hysterical rhetoric over a few percent of biodiversity, with the camera lens focused squarely in on the most recent, ugliest, burnt-out clear-cut available, as if it's going to remain that way forever. The real extreme is the parking lot and other areas of deforestation, not the recently cut forest that is soon going to grow back into a beautiful new forest again.

Greenpeace has gone before the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Forests, calling on countries to reduce the amount of wood they use and to adopt "environmentally appropriate substitutes" instead. No list of substitutes is provided. The Sierra Club is calling for "zero cut" and an end to all commercial forestry on federal public lands in United States. The Rainforest Action Network wants a 75 percent reduction in wood use in North America by the year 2015. I think it is fair to summarize this approach as "cut fewer trees, use less wood". It is my firm belief, as a lifelong environmentalist and ecologist, that this is an anti-environmental policy. Putting aside, for a moment, the importance of forestry for our economy and communities; on purely environmental grounds the policy of "use less wood" is anti-environmental.

On a daily basis, on average, each of the 6 billion people on Earth uses 3.5 pounds or 1.6 kilos of wood every day, for a total of 3.5 billion tons per year. So why don't we just cut that in half and save vast areas of forest from harvesting? In order to demonstrate the superficial nature of this apparent logic it is necessary to look at what we are doing with all this wood.

It comes as a surprise to many people that over half the wood used every year is not for building things but for burning as energy. 60 percent of all wood use is for energy, mainly for cooking and heating in the tropical developing countries where 2.5 billion people depend on wood as their primary source of energy. They cannot afford substitutes because most of them make less than $1000 per year. But even if they could afford substitute fuels they would nearly always have to turn to coal, oil, or natural gas; in other words non-renewable fossil fuels.

Even in cases where fuelwood supplies are not sustainable at present levels of consumption the answer is not to use less wood and switch to non-renewables. The answer is to grow more trees.

25 percent of the wood used in the world is for building things such as houses and furniture. Every available substitute is non-renewable and requires a great deal more energy consumption to produce. That is because wood is produced in a factory called the forest by renewable solar energy. Wood is essentially the material embodiment of solar energy. Non-renewable building materials such as steel, cement, and plastic must be produced in real factories such as steel mills, cement works, and oil refineries.

But the general public and our political leaders have been confused by the misguided approach towards forestry taken by much of the environmental movement. So long as people think it is inherently wrong to cut down trees we will continue to behave in a logically inconsistent and dysfunctional manner.

By far the most powerful tool at our disposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption is the growing of trees and the use of wood. Most environmentalists recognize the positive benefits of growing trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But then they say "don't cut them down or you will undo the good that's been done". This would be true if you simply piled the trees in a heap and lit them on fire. If, however, the wood is used as a substitute for fossil fuels and for building materials whose production consumes fossil fuels, we can dramatically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions.

I believe that if forests can recover by themselves from total and complete destruction, that with our growing knowledge of forest science in silviculture, biodiversity conservation, soils, and genetics; we can ensure that the forests of this world continue to provide an abundant, and hopefully growing, supply of renewable wood to help build and maintain our civilization while at the same time providing an abundant, and hopefully growing, supply of habitat for the thousands of other species that depend on the forest for their survival every day just as much as we do. The fact is, a world without forests is as unthinkable as a day without wood."

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