fwd: wasteful junk mail

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Mon Feb 9 05:59:13 EST 1998


In article <newkirk-0802981224300001 at otto25.olywa.net>,
newkirk at olywa.net (Kirk Johnson) says Donella Meadows wrote:

> Then Scot got up and drew a graph on the board.  "Here's something that scares
> me," he said.  He showed the actual cut in Washington and Oregon over many
> decades, with ups and downs as the market turns, but an overall downward
> direction.  Then he showed the official estimates, made every ten years, of
> the
> expected sustained yield from those forests.  The studies that determine this
> theoretical yield are very thorough, involving forest censuses and computer
> models and land management plans.
 
> His graph showed that every ten years for decades now the calculated
> sustainable cut -- the rate at which the forests can go on yielding wood over
> the long term -- has gone down.
 
> > "Why?" we asked.
 
> > Partly because of forest land being cleared for other uses, he said.  But
> > mainly because of cutting the standing stock faster than it is growing back.

Oregon has 18,309,000 acres of timber land, defined as forest land capable
of producing a minimum of 20 cubic feet a year of industrial wood.  This 
figure does not include parks, wilderness areas, or any other public or 
private land that has been withdrawn from timber production even though 
trees may be growing there.  

20 cubic feet is about 120 board feet on the Scribner scale.  Thus, the
minimum annual industrial wood growth in Oregon is 2.19 billion board
feet.  About half of Oregon's timber land is federally owned, 
8,629,000 acres, to be fairly exact.  Minimum wood growth on federal
lands in Oregon is thus 1.03 billion board feet.  In fact, the real
productivity of western Oregon forest land is about twice the minimum
standard, so there's a big safety factor built in here.  Let's use the
minimum just to be safe.

Total cut on federal lands in Oregon under Plan 9 in 1997 was 9 million
board feet.  This is less than 1% of the annual growth of timber on
federal lands in the state.  Plan 9 is a long term regional management
program, which should stand as long as congress doesn't pass any more
salvage riders.

Private lands are slightly larger than federal lands, and produce more
timber per acre because of better management and better land to start
with.  Total production on private lands in Oregon was 680 million
board feet in 1997, roughly 65% of the growth rate of new wood.  Two
years ago, prices were sky high, and production was 1.2 billion board
feet.  That level of cutting runs into the "service factor," but can 
be sustained by good land management.  Fortunately, high profit levels
pay for a higher level of management.

Private harvest levels fluctuate widely depending on market conditions.

I don't think there is any question that the current cut in Oregon is
drastically below the sustainable level.  For the short term, (decades)
federal harvests need to be held low to compensate for unsustainably 
high harvest levels in the past.  However, in another 20 or 30 years,
harvest levels in Oregon could double and still be easily sustainable.
 
> By this time Kathy was at the board, saying, "I've just seen a graph that
> scares ME."  She drew a line that rose steadily and then leveled off.  "This
> is
> the biomass of trees in the Hubbard Brook watershed (in New Hampshire) since
> the 1960s," she said.  The trees had been growing happily for decades, and
> then
> something slowed the rate of biomass buildup way down, nearly to zero.

> > "What?" we asked.
 
> No one knows for sure, she said, but scientists think it's air pollution and
> acid rain.

Forests naturally quit building biomass as they mature.  There certainly 
may be other factors, but I wonder at a forester who has never seen a
forest growth curve nosedive as a forest reaches maturity.  It depends
on how many decades the trees have been growing happily, and what kind
of trees they are, but it happens to all of them eventually.
 
> Clunk.  The pieces fell together in my mind, and out popped a great big WHY?
> With the forest stock going down in one of our major forests and tree growth
> rates going down in another, with expected future cuts decreasing, WHY are we
> using a hundred million trees a year to pelt people with advertising they
> mostly don't ask for, don't want, and don't even look at?

I disagree.  I'm a rural person, and do a lot of shopping by catalog
because that's the only way I can find many items without driving to
the nearest major city, about 3.5 hours away.  From my standpoint, 
catalogs use easily replaceable trees, while vehicles use irreplacable
petrochemicals, damage the atmosphere, and may be damaging the trees
that you want to protect.  There are so many cars in cities that the
air actually changes color from the exhaust!

If more people stayed home and shopped by catalog instead of running all
over in their cars, the Earth would last a whole lot longer.  At least
when the catalog goes into the landfill, that's just so many pounds of
CO2 withdrawn from the atmosphere that all those automotive shopping
trips dumped there in the first place.  Just think how bad global
warming would be if it weren't for disposable diapers!

Junk mail is certainly a nuisance, but you can go down to the post
office and fill out a form and never again get a piece of 3rd class
mail in your mailbox.  The PO will notify the mailers, and you will
start dropping off of mailing lists in a hurry.  It's just not
selective.  If you block 3rd class mail, you block *all* 3rd class
mail.

I realize that it goes against the modern urban legend, but us country
folk haven't cut down all our trees, and are actually doing a pretty fine
job of managing a vital resource for the future.  By the time the next
generation rolls around, they will have twice as much wood as we have
now.  That's not a bad legacy.

> > (Donella H. Meadows is an adjunct professor of environmental studies at
> > Dartmouth College.)

I hope you let Donella know that her perceptions may be a bit skewed.

-- Larry




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