Winter snow reveals the extent of cutting across central foothills of The Cascades. None of these forests contain old growth trees- there is very little old growth left in Washington- even the Wikipedia list of old growth names cut areas as old growth- many of the national parks listed have been cut in the past, and contain little original growth. The “intact” forests are token, and we’ll never see a climax forest here again. When you cut the trees, the protection of the soil goes away. Then the rains carry the valuable top soil away, leaving nothing for the new trees to anchor their roots into. I have talked about this challenge at EEC Forest Stewardship. We cannot just replant the trees and expect them to grow to a ripe old age when there is no fertility for them to grow into. EEC uses animal systems to help rebuild the fertility for the forest. Even with our methods, the topsoil will take generations to rebuild, and climate change will make it impossible for current species to survive.
In commercial forests, like the one in these photos, the trees are taken away time and again with no replenishment of fertility. Though recently, a system known as “LOOP“, which puts treated sewage into the forests as bio solids, claims to replenish the nutrients in the soil for timber industries. The solids are mixed with sawdust and spread liberally into recently thinned young groves. The applications are often put down multiple times over the years in the same places, as it costs a lot to thin an area of forest for the machines to access, so they spread the sludge in concentrated areas over time. The system is also under pressure from the sewage treatment plants, which are heavily overtaxed by our exploding population and lack of infrastructure. During major flooding events in our region, millions of gallons of sewage waste floods into our wild water.
I am in this tree farm often to hunt, gather firewood, and explore; using a recreational pass, which I purchase annually to access this 100,000 acre commercial forest. I’ve been coming here for almost a decade, observing the harvests and how the forest is managed by the global corporate conglomerate Bright Sphere, which currently owns this site under the subsidiary Campbell Global. You can find out more about who’s tossing around shares in this traded company here. It helps to follow the money- revealing just how removed the top earners are from this bottom wrung natural “resource” they exploit. I say exploit because this forest is no longer a thriving ecosystem, but a dead mono culture of cloned Douglas Fir. The land is completely degraded, and what is left of the soil can barely eek out a stand of trees. The harvest is now comprised of mostly small, young growth, as most timber products are now made of laminated and composite materials, rather than solid wood. This allows the company to use any age of tree for its commercial gains. The industry has turned in this direction because it cannot grow a tree to mature age any more due to a lack of nutrients in the soil to support stable growth.
Disease, climate change, and ecological abuse by man has created a perfect storm of degradation across the world. Forests are only one part of this whole, but they are the up front ecology of my home, and I’m standing here as a witness to the long term destruction and where it’s heading. I can see the effects of this abuse, and know that in my lifetime, these lands will become barren, the water will become toxic, and the animals will disappear; along with the trees and this ecosystem as we know it. Things are exponentially speeding up, and we’re out of time. It angers me so much, puts me into a state of feeling helpless, and then I look at what’s left of the ecosystem and feel shame in being part of its destruction. We are all responsible, as people- eating, breeding, consuming, without acknowledgment of the role our selfishness and shortsightedness plays in global destruction. This is why I will not have children- it’s the one gift I can give that will make a difference to the earth and her survival.
Here is an example of how thin the soil is now. Trees can’t even stand up any more. In the landscape of much of Western Washington, just below the topsoil, is a heavily compacted layer of clay left over from glacial movement thousands of years ago. Nothing can get through this layer, even earthworks equipment is challenged by it. Tree roots are unable to penetrate through, and the rains run right off it, into the oceans, never soaking in to replenish the water table. These 100,000 acres are just a small example of the problem- forests around the world are being “managed” like exponential producers, and disappearing in the same way. None of the timber companies will acknowledge this destruction, and we’re all still compliant in the pillaging, as we keep buying our cheap, readily disposable products, and ignore the cutting. Our privilege to remain blind will ultimately be our undoing, and I would not put this future chaos on the shoulders of another generation. The current youth of our world are very aware of global destruction, and the harm it’s causing. They are also angry and helpless- becoming the most suicidal generation to date. Yet experts are stumped- pun intended. We’re all stumped, and there will be no regenerative solutions in our lifetime. The ecosystem has tipped, and the consequences are in motion weather our entitlement wants it or not.
When we embraced Eurocentric thinking, and invested in the industrialization of mankind for the sake of progress, we signed our own death warrant. First Nations people who remained true to their philosophy that they are the land and the land is them, warned of ecological terrorism, and the impact it would have on the future of our species. They are still reminding us of it, yet Militarized Police hose them down with water cannons and lock them up on reservations to mute the cries of their warnings. It’s still happening today around the world, and will continue until it’s too late- it’s too late. Those opposed to mindful stewardship of our planet argue that we cannot stop, that the trees must fall to feed us. That if people don’t have jobs they will starve, the forest is ours to take, and that the trees will come back again, renewable, like everything else we need, it’s madness. The harvesting of our trees is done by machines now, not a camp of loggers like the “good old days”. There are very few people making a living as loggers any more (could find no current information on this- here are statistics to 2001) . Logging towns of the 1900s are dead, like the forests they plundered for short term gains, at great long term costs to all the future generations yet to come.
What we are leaving for those who come next is a wasteland of industrial pollution and irreversible destruction. The LOOP bio-solids are full of medication and heavy metals, which will sink into the soil and flow into our drinking water. The active use of these waste solids in timber woodlands is craftily hidden in plain sight. Trees are being planted and nurtured with human waste- only to be cut down, which is not mentioned in many “sustainable tree planting” operations. The harvested forests will be replanted a few more times, but ultimately fall victim to degraded soil and climate fueled devastation in the form of fire, wind, and flooding- not to mention insect and fungal disease attacking the cloned genetics of single source DNA. We like to think our genetic meddling makes a stronger product- but in reality, man cannot synthesize all the genetic diversity, or evolutionary adaptation that life has undergone throughout evolutionary process as a whole ecosystem. Again, our single focus on making a buck has removed us from the reality of complex living structures, woven together through millions of generations. We think pulling our single use out of every molecule makes a better product from nature. We’re really just opening the door to infection and devastation with every modification we make for profit. Man’s ego will be his downfall.
I’m sorry to have to be so blunt and negative, but we’ve been batting around gleeful shortsightedness for too long, at the cost of life on earth as we know it. I’m looking at the children alive now, who will see the nightmare, and live with the terrible costs our lack of action has caused. These forests will never recover from our mishandling, and this ecosystem is just like any other. Wake up people, look around, there is no old growth coming back, and the direction we continue to head in means more abuse, and continued consumption of what’s left in our natural world. We are eating ourselves, because we are the natural world, and it is us. We disavowed our responsibility as stewards, becoming monsters of greed. Even if we are not out cutting the trees our selves, we are demanding the products made from them, and happily returning to our shopping networks and stock options without understanding what those $$$ represent. Every dollar today has its root in natural resources that are exploited, but the end is in site now. We will run out in my lifetime, and for the next generation, there will be nothing left.