( We would to thank everyone at Treehugger.com that contributed to this series. We are grateful for your insights and ideas.)
At Eco Preservation Society we advocate two common sense long-term goals:
Common Sense Goal #1: Within thirty years we must replace fossil fuels as an energy source.
Common Sense Goal #2: Over the next one hundred years we must sequestered
the excess carbon that has been added to the atmosphere over the last one hundred years.
As important as it is to reduce our CO2 emissions, it is also important to remove the excess CO2 that we have already put into the atmosphere. Certainly over the next 30 years we will be producing much more CO2 before we begin to produce
less. To suggest that we should choose emissions over sequestation is a false choice. We must focus on both.
Further, when talking about Carbon Neutral or Carbon Offsets, reforestation is not only a “viable option”; it is our “only option”. Investing in future technologies to reduce emissions does NOTHING to remove the CO2 that we have already dumped into the atmosphere. There is only ONE viable and proven way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and that is through the growth of trees and vegetation.
Common sense must prevail. The notion that planting trees is detrimental to the cause of protecting our environment does not pass the common sense test. Critics correctly note that as carbon sinks a forests ability to sequester carbon may follow a saw tooth pattern. However it is a fallacy to suggest that because carbon retention in our forests does not follow a linear pattern that it is somehow diminished in importance. This is non-sense! Simply because our understanding of these processes may be more complex than once thought, that does not mean that these processes are any less important to our future.
Those that argue that reforestation efforts are only “feel good” solutions because an individual tree may not permanently sequestered the carbon in its biomass are presenting an overly simplistic argument. An analogous argument could be made that one should not open a bank account because not ALL of the money that you deposit into that account remains there permanently. The concept of effectively managing a bank account does not require that every dollar you put into the account remain there forever. The concept is that money flows in and out and over time successful money manager will grow that account. This is how we need to look at our forests, as a renewable resource that plays an unparalleled and unique role in sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.
There is a danger that when we grasp at headlines like “Reforestation Contributes to Global Warming” that we promote an overly simplistic view of the problem. The headlines garnered by the Livermore Study were so seductive for so many, particularly those that have an interest in the emission reduction side of the Carbon Offset debate. However carbon cycle is only one factor in the equation of protecting our environment. Along with reducing CO2 emissions and removing the excess CO2 that has already been emitted, we should not loose sight of the role that trees play in the water cycle and in the production of the oxygen that we breath. The notion that environmentalist can make blanket statements like: “planting trees north of the Canadian bordered contributes to Global Warming” and to have so many accept these findings without serious scrutiny should be cause for great concern within the environmental community. It is no wonder that those in the business community look at us environmentalist as a bunch of flakes.
We must do better
At Eco Preservation Society we believe that we need to re-examine all of our options in sequestering carbon. Today there are many web sites that feature Carbon Calculators that tell us about our individual Carbon Footprint. Yet in all of the Carbon Footprint Calculators, none take into account the amount of carbon that an affluent family has sequestered in their 4000 square foot wood structured home. We must do better!
Looking at the wood products industry as a possible solution to Global Warming problem is a politically incorrect discussion within the environmental movement. We must to take a fresh look at reforestation and forestry as a sustainable resource.
In the past the forestry industry has given us mono-habitats and clear cutting. These are obvious negative impacts and we must do better. How much more engineering and planning would it really require to manage these resources in a more diverse manner?
In the future we can do better and we need to take a fresh look at how we approach these issues.
Clearly the Lawrence Livermore study is not the final word. It only serves to awaken us to the fact that the complexities of the problems that we face are much greater than we once imagined. It is fair to conclude from the Livermore Study that overly simplistic monolithic solutions such as “Universal Tree Planting” are not viable. At the same time, overly simplistic conclusions drawn from the Livermore Study are equally inappropriate.
As leaders in the environmental movement it is important that we are responsible with the information that we feed to the public. We loose credibility with the public when we grasp at sensational headlines and do not deliver on thoughtful and meaningful examination of these critical issues.
Solutions Moving Forward:
Perhaps it is time for us to reexamine the concept of deforestation, both in terms of methods and importance. Deforestation occurs in nature, it serves a purpose in nature’s cycles. Without question our last remaining old growth forest and primary rain forests must absolutely be protected. However when it comes to the management of lands that have already been deforested there are other options that have not been considered. For those interested in this topic see our article on the Resource Revolution.
Over the last century there have been vast amounts of lands that have been deforested and converted to pasturelands and croplands that should be converted back to forestlands and wildlife habitat. The key to realizing this goal is to provide economic incentives for landowners to covert these lands back to forests.
We see 3 sources of revenue incentives for conservation minded landowners.
First, financial incentives can come in the form of selective harvesting of trees in a diverse forest environment. Instead of planting a “mono crop” of trees that would be harvested all at once, a diverse environment could be created with a variety of trees that grow at different rates. Trees could be harvested in a selective manner at different times based on a variety of factors. Instead of wiping an entire habitat, trees can be harvested in a manner that preserves the habitat.
Second, this staggered harvest approach means that the forests will retain their value not only as a habitat, but as recreational areas as well. Recreational activities would be an additional source of revenue for the land owner: hiking trails, cross-country skiing, canopy tours, horseback riding, GPS tracking games, trail biking, ATV tours, ect, ect.
Finally, with the ability to sell carbon credits, there is a third possible source of revenue for the landowner.
It took us a century to create our problems with the environment; we need to take a long-term view at solving them. Realistically it is going to take us 30 years to phase out fossil fuels; there will be more damage to correct during that time. We need to start now and reforestation is the answer. We are conditioned to seek immediate gratification and we are not satisfied unless we achieve instant results. Instant results are not a realistic expectation for solving our environmental problems. From our view a longer-term approach is required. The key is for our generation to initiate the process and to raise our children with understanding that this will be the biggest challenge facing their generation. We need to provide our children with the values and the education so that they will have the tools and the imagination to solve these problems within their lifetime. The future belongs to our children and it is up to us to provide them the means to make their future a bright one. This is a living legacy that is our responsibility to deliver upon for future generations. This is the goal of the Eco Preservation Society.
Kevin Peterson, CEO
Eco Preservation Society
Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change