In the public imagination, British Columbia is swathed in green and famous for its towering old growth forests. But while the provincial government says 23% of BC’s forests are old growth, a new study finds that a mere 1% remains with tall trees.
Intense pressure is now being put on the remaining trees by a forestry industry eager to capitalize on nations desperate for new “carbon neutral” sources of energy, including the revamping of coal-fired power plants to burn wood pellets.
A lot is riding ecologically on whatever policy decisions are eventually enacted in BC.
Dominick DellaSala is president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Oregon. He specializes in studying rare ecosystems globally and says of BC’s temperate, old growth forests: “From my research, there are only two other regions on earth like it — southeast Russia and Siberia. These forests are important and rare. They have the highest richness of lichens of any place in the world, a main food source for the mountain caribou, which is circling the extinction drain. Some trees are estimated to be 1,600 years old. And they are being wasted by logging.”
DellaSala underlined the fact that old growth forests are a large, stable source of carbon: “If we are going to fight climate change, we need to get off fossil fuels and hang onto on our remaining primary forests.”
A message from Tonya Graham, Geos Institute Executive Director
Cornel West, author of Race Matters, reminds us to “never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Here at the Geos Institute, we talk often about the larger forces at work in the climate crisis and the need to bank hard toward collaboration, courage, and trust – and away from isolation, fear, and violence – as we face increasing disruptions that harm our communities, economies, and ecosystems.
It can be all too easy in this work to imagine that we are starting from a place where people feel safe and experience climate disruptions from a foundation of trust – that is, it can be easy for those of us who are white.
Many of us working on climate change have drawn comparisons between the global COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis, calling COVID-19 a “dry run” for the climate crisis. If that is the case, and there is good reason to believe it is, this moment is instructive and we must do our part to ensure that it is actually a turning point.
By Marc Heller, (E&E News, May 19, 2020)
A future coronavirus aid package in Congress might become the next battleground in a fight over forest policy.
The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.
Leading the latest effort is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced a broad package he said would give forest communities an economic boost while providing wildfire crews protection from the spreading virus (E&E Daily, May 12).
Sensing that a big appropriations bill could give logging advocates an opportunity, a group of scientists skeptical of the industry wrote to key federal lawmakers last week, urging them to refrain from putting pro-logging measures into any upcoming legislation, including on climate change. Continue reading
For Immediate Release on May 13, 2020
As multiple current legislative proposals attempt to shoehorn measures that would increase logging, or increase funding for logging, into COVID-19 stimulus packages, over 200 top U.S. climate and forest scientists are now asking Congressional leaders to avoid using the pandemic emergency as a means for stripping away forest protections and promoting logging. In a historic and unprecedented letter sent to Congress today, the scientists conclude that, in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, moving beyond fossil fuel consumption is not enough, and we must also increase forest protections and shift away from energy-intensive and greenhouse-gas polluting wood consumption.
The scientists note that annual carbon emissions from logging in U.S. forests are comparable to emissions from the residential and commercial sectors combined. They ask legislators to reject false climate solutions that promote forest biomass logging (removal and incineration of trees for energy production) under the guise of “climate-friendly” or “carbon neutral” energy or logging for cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other wood products under the guise of carbon storage. Most of the carbon in trees is removed from forests when they are logged and quickly ends up in the atmosphere or in landfills, they caution. The scientists also note that logging, including commercial “thinning,” can often increase fire intensity in forests, while damaging soils and removing vital nutrients, which undermines the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of forests.
“Forests are our only means for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide and storing the carbon long term at the needed scale. Burning wood in place of coal is accelerating global warming and decreasing the capacity of forests to counter the buildup of heat trapping carbon dioxide,” said Dr. William Moomaw of Tufts University. Dr. Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist with the John Muir Project, observed, “The dangerous excess CO2 that we’ve put into the atmosphere with fossil fuel consumption and logging will stay there for far too long if we don’t take serious steps to bring it down, and forest protection is our best and most effective way to do that.” Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist with the Geos Institute, added, “The vast majority of scientists warn that in order to avoid catastrophic climate impacts in the decades ahead, including new pandemics potentially linked to deforestation, we need to keep dinosaur-carbon in the ground and store atmospheric carbon in forests.”
On Monday May 11, Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist with the Geo Institute in Ashland, Oregon, talks with Locus Focus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal reminder of how out of balance our planet has become. Decades of explosive human population growth and an increasingly mobile population have put us in close contact, squeezed natural habitats, and forced wild animals to occupy cities or perish. These factors play a significant role in causing and spreading pandemics, like the one that is now shutting down the world.
We’ll discuss how confined animal feed operations, poaching, overhunting, and consumption of wild animals as food or trade can also spark novel virues to jump from other wild species to humans—which is what has happened with COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is a distress signal coming to us from imperiled ecosystems and wildlife; it is not a one-off event. The best gift we could give not just our planet but ourselves is to start viewing strong environmental policy as preventive medicine.
By Carl Meyer
Canada’s National Observer
Published April 30th 2020
Companies can cut down whole trees to be ground into pellets for fuel if they are “inferior,” says British Columbia’s natural resources ministry, a position that has led to concerns the government is “rebranding” old growth forests as low-quality in order to justify logging them.
B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told National Observer on April 27 that “timber harvesting has evolved over time” and that the industry is now focusing on sending “high-quality” lumber to sawmills.
Other whole trees, the ministry said, can get sent to plants that manufacture wood pellets, a type of biomass fuel that is burned for heating or electricity and is made by compacting together wood material. Keep reading.
Listen to the April 27th Jefferson Exchange radio interview with Dr. Dominick DellaSala and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Franz Baumann connecting Earth, natural systems, and human health.
The butterfly effect is a thought experiment about how a small change in a system—a butterfly flapping its wings—can ripple through complex, interconnected systems, eventually cascading into larger events, like a tornado in Oklahoma. Despite having been popularized by the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
While there’s uncertainty about how the novel coronavirus originally infected people, it might have started as viral spillover (transfer) from bats or other wild animals. One emerging hypothesis based on DNA evidence is that, because of natural habitat destruction, horseshoe bats in China were forced into cities. Under increased stress, the bats shed viruses that were picked up by people and perhaps other animals in an early infection cluster. Alarmingly, some 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases worldwide are exchanged between humans and wild animals. Think West Nile, Lyme, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Zika. The deadly Ebola outbreak has been linked to deforestation in Africa and to virus spillover from consumption of primates or bats that places hunters, consumers, and wildlife at risk.
By Dominick DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann
Published Monday, April 20th 2020 at the Medford Mail Tribune
The staggering loss of life from the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily lives into chaos. Whenever it is deemed safe enough to leave the protective bubble of our homes, the world will be markedly different. To reduce the chances of the next pandemic, human and planetary health need to be solved together, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The leading hypothesis on how the virus originally infected people in China is that it started in clusters as viral spillover from infected bats and possibly other wild animals forced into close proximity with people. But don’t blame bats or the Chinese for the Earth out of balance.
Geos Institute and conservation groups called on the Forest Service to properly analyze and reduce carbon emissions from logging in roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest, southeast Alaska, a globally significant carbon warehouse.
Geos Institute depends on the generous support of caring people who believe we can and must do a better job addressing climate change for our children and those who will follow.