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The Tipping Point

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Food For Thought |

The Tipping Point – Let’s face it; there is one thing that we all wonder about. Recognizing the signs that human actions are reducing this planet’s productivity, resilience, and its ability to support human life – and all life – we ask ourselves “will we change course before it is too late? Does our species have the ability to change as quickly as circumstances require; can we?”  Some of us consciously think about and discuss these questions while others do it subconsciously, but either way, they seem to be the central questions of our time.   It is a healthy dimension of human nature that we at least ask and consider these questions, but they’re not the real question we should be asking.  Focusing on them is a waste of time because the only way to get an answer is to wait and see what happens.  The much more useful question is “what trait plays the most critical role in determining the future of our species?”  What will it take?  Observation and experience have taught me that the core trait is developing a shared sense of responsibility for those things we share in common.  The challenge will have been met when we cross the tipping point of developing enough shared sense of responsibility for what we share in common to stop and reverse its decline.  Recent events, ranging from the global to the most local, help to clarify and illustrate my understandings and highlight both the encouraging cases where we have crossed the crucial tipping point as well as the many situations where we are far from reaching that point. Just as the questions are not new, wise thinkers in the past provide us with useful answers. One of the most powerful was Aldo Leopold.  The land ethic that he articulated and encouraged calls on us to treat the world around us not as a commodity belonging to us but as a community to which we belong – a place where we must learn to be as focused on our responsibilities as much as on our rights.  This land ethic provides essential guidance, primarily to those of us who grow...

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Not Buying It

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Food For Thought |

Not Buying It – I am hearing it everywhere. “All Oregon grown wood is good wood”.  The messages come like an accelerating drum beat from the Governor’s office, the communications of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, the industry groups, the Small Woodlands Association, the faculty of our land grant university….. .   The identical nature of the messages are enough to make this Oregonian wonder.  “The state forest practices act provides for the highest level of sustainable forestry and should be embraced by the premiere systems of green building certification.  Anything short of this is discriminatory.  It is time to stand up against this injustice.” I’m not buying it. And I encourage you to consider the validity and consequences of these statements. I don’t buy the messages. I don’t buy the wood.  And my family and I don’t buy this style of forestry as the best approach for our own forests.  And I don’t buy this Oregon tradition of government leaders being quicker to do the bidding of their timber interest supporters than they are to take leadership in acknowledging and addressing important forest-related problems. While I believe that there is much that is important, valuable, and good about the systems of mainstream forestry in western Oregon, I know that there are serious problems which we can and must acknowledge and address.  A more accurate statement is: “All Oregon grown wood is good wood – when considered in the global context – but it is not good enough”.  Here’s why.   A Critique of Mainstream Forestry as Practiced in Western Oregon: (Note – Each of the following concerns are grounded on one, or a combination, of the following rationales and are indicated with (P) = practical,( L) = Legal (in violation of one or more laws), and (E) = in conflict with ethical standards. Footnotes provide additional information on the basis for the concern.) The General Concern – In too many ways, places, and cases our systems of forestry in Western Oregon ask more of the land than it can provide without being degraded.  This leads to lost potential, reduced adaptive capacity, violation of laws and rights, avoidable social and...

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Answering the Call

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Food For Thought |

Answering the Call – The Fourth Challenge – Here in Oregon we have no excuse not to provide leadership in understanding and demonstrating excellent forestry; we have all of the ingredients – an ecological legacy of remarkably valuable and vibrant forests, a conducive climate, and a culture with enough comfort to allow for farsightedness. But we’re not doing it.  Too often and in too many ways progress is blocked by crippling struggle and avoidable gridlock.  Why is this?  What holds us back?   A challenge and opportunity calls for our acknowledgement and attention; in most ways we are ignoring it.  It’s time to answer the call. Through time, as Oregon’s culture and forests have co-evolved with one another, we’ve faced and wrestled with a sequence of challenges. Now a fourth challenge calls for – demands – our attention.  The degree to which we acknowledge and meet this challenge will powerfully influence the future of both the people and the forests.  Understanding the fourth challenge depends on first exploring the prior three.  Oregon is a welcomely diverse place and we should make clear that different groups have highlighted the importance of each of the three challenges and mustered the resources needed to meet them – at the same time that others worked to block their way.  I believe that there is reason to hope that all parties could see value in and benefit from acknowledging and working to meet the fourth challenge.  Will we answer the call? Challenge #1 – On their arrival in the Pacific Northwest, euro-americans stood in awe of many facets of the landscape, but none more than the size and majesty of the forests.  Though today we recognize that these forests provided humans with many things they needed – water, food, medicines… – the use that first captivated the newcomers was converting the trees to lumber, connecting the product with markets, and converting trees into money.  Working with rudimentary technologies, sketchily thin and often unreliable work forces, scarce capital and long, challenging hauls to markets all presented major challenges.  Step by step, subchallenges were faced and met – falling the trees, moving the logs, milling them into...

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Answering the Call

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in Food For Thought |

Answering the Call –  The Fourth Challenge – Here in Oregon we have no excuse not to provide leadership in understanding and demonstrating excellent forestry; we have all of the ingredients – an ecological legacy of remarkably valuable and vibrant forests, a conducive climate, and a culture with enough comfort to allow for farsightedness.  But we’re not doing it.  Too often and in too many ways progress is blocked by crippling struggle and avoidable gridlock.  Why is this?  What holds us back?   A challenge and opportunity calls for our acknowledgement and attention; in most ways we are ignoring it.  It’s time to answer the call. Through time, as Oregon’s culture and forests have co-evolved with one another, we’ve faced and wrestled with a sequence of challenges.  Now a fourth challenge calls for – demands – our attention.  The degree to which we acknowledge and meet this challenge will powerfully influence the future of both the people and the forests.  Understanding the fourth challenge depends on first exploring the prior three.  Oregon is a welcomely diverse place and we should make clear that different groups have highlighted the importance of each of the three challenges and mustered the resources needed to meet them – at the same time that others worked to block their way.  I believe that there is reason to hope that all parties could see value in and benefit from acknowledging and working to meet the fourth challenge.  Will we answer the call? Challenge #1 – On their arrival in the Pacific Northwest, euro-americans stood in awe of many facets of the landscape, but none more than the size and majesty of the forests.  Though today we recognize that these forests provided humans with many things they needed – water, food, medicines… – the use that first captivated the newcomers was converting the trees to lumber, connecting the product with markets, and converting trees into money.  Working with rudimentary technologies, sketchily thin and often unreliable work forces, scarce capital and long, challenging hauls to markets all presented major challenges.  Step by step, subchallenges were faced and met – falling the trees, moving the logs, milling them into...

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A Wood Chooser’s Guide

Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Food For Thought |

A Wood Chooser’s Guide – A Resource for Better Aligning Values and Choices: DRAFT – 7.9.2013 We all make daily choices about what products from trees we will and won’t use; we are all “wood choosers” and our choices, no matter how small, shape the future of forests.  An increasing number of us express a will to become more mindful, deliberate, and educated about the choices that we make – because impacts we have on forests near and far matter to us.  But how will we find the information and frameworks of thinking we need to become better wood choosers?  The aim of this guide is to help fill that need.  We invite you to give it a try and make suggestions on ways to improve it.  In the interest of keeping things simple, the guide is made up of three sections –  Points to Consider,  Forks in the Road, and Activities.  Since the point is to be of service to you, feel free to jump around and explore the guide in whatever way works for you.  Happy exploring! Some Points to Consider: 1)      Choice – Whether we’re choosing Wheat Thins (original? Low salt? cheesey?….), jeans (standard? Slim fit? Husky?..), or something as apparently simple as a cup of coffee, consumers are confronted – and challenged – by an increasing variety of choices.  In the world of wood products this is a welcome change.  In more and more places, wood choosers have the opportunity to buy wood that is well aligned with their values and needs.  All across the region and planet innovative risk takers are bringing responsibly grown wood to market.  Success hinges on consumers voting to support these new options with their purchasing dollars. 2)      You Are Powerful – The choices you make shape wood markets, which, in turn, shape forest landscapes and related human communities.  Whether you are aware of it or not your current and future choices help determine what types of forestry are feasible and profitable and which are not.  In 1928 Aldo Leopold got it right when he observed: “The long and the short of the matter is that forest conservation depends in...

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Reconciliation

Posted by on Oct 12, 2013 in Food For Thought |

Reconciliation – The Ultimate Measure of Success We’re told that “travel broadens”.  My experience affirms the truth of this statement, but it also teaches me that the opposite is true.  Travel, when accompanied by observation, questioning, and reflection, can also do just the opposite.  As the following story shares, travel can constructively narrow, focus, sharpen, and concentrate our understandings of the challenges and responsibilities in the places we return to and call home. Part One – Looking and Learning:  At first the landscape we walked through looked idyllic, bucolic, and romantic.  With our packs lightly loaded for our ten day circuit, our fresh muscles carried us up out of the Medieval period Italian village of Visso, via narrow, stone paved alleys, under the arched gateways through the  surrounding stone walls and  on across open and forested countryside.  It was all so new, exciting, and interesting.  In contrast to prior months of being too immersed in our working forests and their related politics at home in Oregon, the prospect of this two footed exploration of the circular route through the Sibillini Mountains of central Italy promised welcomed refreshment.  Hidden, and not so hidden, clues to the history of human action on the land were all around us.  Why was each village so densely clustered and surrounded by high stone walls?  Who were these stone walls and  stone fortifications punctuated by ridgetopped lookout towers designed to keep out?  What wealth was being protected – and from whom? As trail mile merged into trail mile, day into days, and another ridge was crossed into yet another valley and village, the excitement and engagement grew stronger, but the notion of idyllic and bucolic came increasingly into question.  Viewed through the lens of ecology and history this landscape is dramatically different from what was once here.  The forests that we walked through were made up of few trees larger around than my thigh, yet from clues of old, huge stumps and historical records we discovered that this region was once wealthy with large, diverse, valuable forests.  All along the 120 kilometer circuit we looked hard for what economic outputs that this young forest currently...

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