Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Air We Breathe

Every time a truck with a float carrying a large machine backs up the old road running alongside our home, it means only one thing: another clearcut is planned.
This will be the fourth logging operation in the woods behind, and next to, our home in the ten years I've lived here. For someone who loves trees, who loves walking in the woods, who values trees for the purpose they serve to the environment (and appreciates, as a consumer, what trees provide to humans), this is very, very hard on my heart.
I mean, just look at the background of that photo: the heartache came right to our doorstep in 2014.
The company bringing in this excavator and a bulldozer isn't responsible for the logging; it's simply building the road leading to and from the woods that will be flattened this winter. This causes me great consternation: the reason for the road is the loss of trees -- meaning loss of habitat and food for birds, animals and insects, as well as air purifiers for all of us -- but the road gives me a wonderful path to walk for a few years.
Ironically, I walk deep into the woods, past all the clearcuts. When I walk, my footsteps are heavy with guilt, remorse and fear for the future.

A few weeks ago, our neighbour hired someone to dig out the ditches around his field, but he insisted the excavator operator leave the contents of the ditch along the side of the road, instead of having his dirt and shrubs dumped on his own property. This wall of ditch dirt would prevent water from draining off the road and make clearing snow from the logging road difficult through that stretch.
So my husband told the manager for the logging company that it was in his best interests to get the bulldozer to clear that crap off the side of the road. He told him to dump the debris on our neighbour's property.
Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went for a walk yesterday afternoon and saw all our  neighbour's ditch debris dumped on OUR side of the road, a pile of dirt and limbs that flattened six to eight poplar and birch trees.

This is what drives me crazy about us -- consumers, loggers, men, humans: we treat the natural world as if it is expendable, as if it doesn't matter. That bulldozer driver thought nothing of destroying a small grove of trees as he moved dirt around. Yet there was no reason to do that, no reason to "end the lives" of half a dozen or more trees who provide food and habitat, and prevent soil erosion.
Oh, yeah, and also produce oxygen.
Which we -- consumers, loggers, men, and humans -- need in order to live.
When I complained to my husband, he didn't care.
"I don't cut wire birch or poplar when I'm in the woods."
He processed my complaint through his own use of the woods: as firewood.
"You may not use them but birds and animals and insects do," I retorted. "Plus they filter CO2 and create oxygen."
He didn't care. He couldn't make the connection. To him, trees are either firewood or useless. 

A story on the news on Monday evening (a story I thought should have been the lead) was the United Nations World Meteorological Organization's report that CO2 levels in the Earth's atmosphere have hit record levels. In fact, CO2 levels are rising at "record-breaking speed".
CO2 is the gas we exhale when we breathe. We inhale oxygen and we exhale CO2.
Trees need CO2 to produce oxygen. We need oxygen to breathe -- we'll choke on the CO2. So what happens when there aren't enough trees to turn too much CO2 into enough oxygen?
WE NEED TREES TO BREATHE, folks. There is no other way around it.
Yet does anyone make that connection?
Does no one understand we need trees to live?
Just like we need bees to pollinate our food.
Just like we need safe, clean drinking water.
Air, water and food -- these are the basics humans need to survive. Yet we have the least respect for them.

I wrote about this in my book, in the essay "What Future Does A Tree Have?" and I'll keep writing about it as long as there is breath in me -- and trees to put it there.

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