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New Food for Thought

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Blog |

Our forests produce many things that we find of interest and value.  This includes thoughts and ideas.  Over time, some have proven useful while others have rightly wandered off into oblivion. I, Peter, write and share the essays shared in our “Food for Thought” section, not because I feel that I have any wisdom or insight, but because I hope that they might stimulate constructive discussion and reflection. For those inclined to explore, we want to let you know that three new essays have been added to the collection: Answering the Call The Tipping Point Not Buying It If you read them and feel like offering critique and comment, please send it to peter@hylawoods.com, and know that it will be...

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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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