The dirty politics of forestry

By | April 22, 2012

I sense the next dirty and problematic exploitation here: not in clearcutting, but in tree farming. See, demand for wood is going up. And so is demand for carbon credits for planting forests. So we have the whole sustainable forestry business: tree plantages, which do interfere with available wild habitat and restricts the number and straints of trees available on a given area. Even the newest 'mixed plantages' that are trending in forestry are limited in biodiversity. Furthermore, I'm not certain wildlife is welcome on plantages – after all, plantages are there to be harvested.

So we end up with people putting investments into forestry thinking they're doing something good for the world by planting forests. And yet they are not helping to return forests back, but rather making a commercial investment which is using intensive farming techniques to offset human carbon footprint, not extensive techniques which would offset the carbon footprint and help the ecosystem (at the price of lower returns for the investor).

As to the relevancy of +Ali Adelstein 's find? It just reminded me of this issue. While OroVerde isn't interested in highlighting that problem, I do agree that their marketing campaign is plain brilliant.

Reshared post from +Ali Adelstein

Need Money for my Family in the Rainforest

Clever guerrilla marketing campaign by OroVerde. You don't need always big budgets or hoardes of volunteers to send a big message! ➜

28 thoughts on “The dirty politics of forestry

  1. David Crosswell

    Yes, the trees create the humus level in the soil that I've never seen created in any other way, and I've seen some very productive soils, from river loams to volcanic origin.
    It is trees that create the foundation and all the miniature life that goes with it, that is the foundation of everything else.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Page Laurent Sorry to dissapoint you, but I don't read any of the NGO lobbyists. I've actually also never run across the term 'agroforestry' until you mentioned it, but I like it a lot as it reminds me about agriculture, which faces a similar situation. What I do read, however, is a lot of 'fine print' on contracts or certifications, and I do gossip a lot with my offline neighbours, of whom quite a few harvest wood from what +David Crosswell calls 'National forestry' land.

  3. David Crosswell

    Oh, don't worry, there are investors.
    This is just another avenue for government insider trading.
    This is how it's effected in the first place.

    The land is defined as 'National Forestry'.
    Just one step down from National Parklands.
    Otherwise there'd be no restriction at all.

  4. Sophie Wrobel

    +David Crosswell: 'No, the latter is widely practised, but in a more obscure manner.'

    -> You hit the nail on the head. It's financially viable, but I haven't seen companies investing in this way and looking to attract outside capital investment.

  5. David Crosswell

    No, the latter is widely practised, but in a more obscure manner.
    It's a viable financial proposition because of the much higher final product price than intensive short-term, softwood cropping that is the requirement for the paper and mulching markets.
    It delivers a different product prized for the exotic hardwood timber market and similar.

    One mode I have observed is in how government assists in working round the legislative requirement.
    Generally, a forestry concern is permitted to lease a certain acreage of old growth forest for felling purposes. One example, I believe at the time this occurred that six thousand acres was the maximum permitted allotment. So they fell one area within a fiscal year, give up the lease on that area and lease the same amount on the boundary of the established allotment. This presents a rolling, harvesting effect with an unacceptable level of replanting, because that is seen as production downtime.

  6. Sophie Wrobel

    +Page Laurent My personal interest is more in agroforestry, not in preserving trees – if the price of wood and other energy sources keeps rising the way it is, I'm going to get a forestry license and start cutting down the trees myself in order to keep my family warm during winter.

    I've come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of forestry being practiced under the label 'sustainable'. The first is the forest plantage that is levelled after a particular amount of time (the kind you have described and the kind that advertises high returns). I'd call this 'intensive agroforestry' since it follows the model of 'intensive farming' and is equally destructive. Just like the food industry, the timber industry has developed labels and certifications that advertise well and give consumers a good feeling, but under the cover leave a lot of smear room for dirty play.

    The other type of practice is one that works to maintain a certain forest density and ecological health and harvests based on that principle – I'd call that 'extensive agroforestry' as it follows the model of 'extensive farming'. It is often employed in protected, managed areas (e.g. the forest near where I live) and not so destructive, but also less profitable. Just as there is no food label for extensive farming, there is no timber label for extensive agroforestry.

    I have yet to see a business operating on the latter principle trying to attract foreign investment, or a certification for the latter principle in either the agriculture or agroforestry sectors.

  7. Sophie Wrobel

    +Page Laurent Thanks for sharing just how large the wage difference is – until now I know that one exists, but not how large the discrepancy is! This is also the GATE I am referring to in my post – I think the problems you have outlined are going to get much worse as time goes on and these companies gain more influence.

  8. David Crosswell

    O.K., Mate.

    Well, keep talking and tell us about your part of the world and we'll tell you about ours.

    If we talk to each other, they can't tell lies about either of us, because we will know each other better than that.

    Fear can only reside in the void created by a lack of knowledge.

  9. David Crosswell

    Yes, I understand that.
    Like Irangate, Iraqgate, Afghanistangate, Egyptgate, even, Americagate.
    There are even gates within gates, like U.S.gate: Pentagongate, DHSgate, NHSgate, ChamberofCommercegate.

    There are so many gates, there's not enough space for fences.

    But if you are just talking about Timbergate, yes, I agree.
    First they play for the tax credit by substituting fast growing exotics for the old growth forest they cut down, in plantations, so that they can come back in 15 years and cut that down for their paper mills, with which they supply their newspapers, which in turn are employed to tell us what to believe, how to think and what our opinion should be, because our educational process is geared to teach us to read, so that we no longer need to think.

    Is that the sort of gate you are referring to?

  10. David Crosswell

    Standards will vary according to national contexts, but in the context I'm working, 'indigenous', or 'native' vegetation is the stipulation. This makes sense with the view to energy savings as vegetation native to an area thrive better in that context – rainfall, soil type, etc., with the minimum of maintenance – plant it out and leave it, with just 10%, perhaps of the usual maintenance requirement.

    Green belt planning might come into it, if it was more than just putting some trees out there. There has to be a 'whole of context' planning scenario to make it work. Including such things as cycle paths incorporated into town planning, in order to drop traffic potentials.

    Work I do is under contract and therefore the property of the people I'm contracted to, which is counterproductive, from my perception, in this context, but parameters I'm forced to work within.

  11. David Crosswell

    You would be surprised how accurate it can be.
    All the people lining up for this course are at least accountants.
    To answer an earlier question, Googling RMI should get you started. They have some excellent starter references in their publications, on-site and hard copy.
    With reference to energy consumption, they were also the people behind the recent renovation of the Empire State building.
    They advise everybody from Lanwire to the German government.

  12. Sophie Wrobel

    +David Crosswell thanks for the correction and clarification – you're right, I've been thinking carbon credits and writing carbon footprints.

    I'm still curious about your project, though. Is it confidential, or can you share some information on it? I'm also curious as to 'replacement by indigenous vegetation'. Is this referring to the 'green belt' phenomenon in urban planning recently, or is this implemented in another way?

  13. Frédéric Bazin

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I think carbon footprint is directly related to energy consumption. So we can use it as a strong measurable indicator of human activity ( but not an actual measure).

    Reducing Carbon foot print for the sole purpose of addressing global warming threat is too limited. Without considering innovation, reducing carbon footprint implies reducing energy consumption and indirectly reducing human activity or resource usage.
    I believe that actual resource consumption is strongly related to energy consumption.
    Of course we cannot use carbon footprint analysis to advocate for nuclear electricity.

    So carbon footprint is quite a broad indicator.
    And pollution or waste require energy to be processed as well. As long as offseting these other impacts through reprocessing is mandatory, it seems that the carbon impact and financial cost are good leverage to pressure human activities.
    But I agree they need to be measured prior enforcing any policy to reduce and offset them.

  14. David Crosswell

    Ummm, no.
    'Carbon Credits' are a term employed by the corporate sector to evade contextual responsibility. You don't cut down old growth forest, woodchip it and seel it offshore at a profit and evade your responsibility by planting out a commercial forest of Pinus Radiata. That's the common cheap and grubby strategy. I have yet to see 'carbon credits employed in this thread, although it appears to be what everybody is talking about.

    Carbon footprint accounting is not the same thing.
    Carbon footprint accounting is the accurate measurement of the environmental constitution of a land sector, before an inner city construction project, say, and ensuring that any growth is replaced by the end of project release, by indigenous vegetation, to the point of exceeding the original estimate.
    Very short version.

  15. Sophie Wrobel

    +Antonius Maximus I'm not so convinced that actual human footprints can be accurately measured, as you claim. Certain aspects, yes – waste or runoff being an obvious one. But others such as the impact of vaccinating consumed livestock and feeding them with meal contaminated with prohibited or radioactive substances? I'm not so sure.

  16. Sophie Wrobel

    +Frédéric Bazin 'carbon footprint' is what governments and industry have decided to measure as their 'green currency' and trade on international levels. Then media got a hold of it, and now anyone who wants to be considered 'green' markets with those benchmark figures and that term.

    'Human footprint' is the impact that you have on the environment. Sure, the amount of CO2 you release is part of it, if global warming has significance (which is still disputed)… but there are aspects we can measure today and definitely have an impact. These are things like how much garbage you produce (and what kind of material is in it), how you dispose of it, how much water runoff you directly and indirectly produce with what chemical and natural additives (soap, detergent, fertilizers, pesticides, feces, …), diseases whose development you may be contributing to, how much resources you consume for heating, transportation, etc.

  17. Antonius Maximus

    I didn't say human footprints were more measurable. I expect they can be measured with precision in the same way 'carbon footprints' are. Except in one case, the actual human footprints have an actual (i.e. measurable) impact on the earth, in the other case, the 'carbon' kind have zero impact on the earth (at least no negative impact, if any measurable impact at all). Might as well say bird migrations 'affect' the planet. But you can't frighten people with bird migrations or adopt a moral position with it.

  18. David Crosswell

    Perhaps +Antonius Maximus better come back when he knows what he's talking about.
    At the moment I'm immersed in formatting an instructional design project that measures, very precisely, carbon footprint.
    Tell us about carbon footprint accounting, +Antonius Maximus
    Here we await, breathe abate.

  19. Antonius Maximus

    +David Crosswell , the precision by which something can be measured is not an argument for its importance. I argue it's possible to accurately measure, through statistical methods, ACTUAL human footprints. Those have an impact on the Earth. "Carbon Footprints" are not footprints, and have no impact on the Earth whatsoever. You might as well measure bird chirping or whale songs. All equally irrelevant to anything.

  20. Sophie Wrobel

    +Antonius Maximus I've purposely used these words because they are the marketing buzzwords that show up these days, and since they show up so often, also things people can relate to without a scientific background. I agree with you that to more seriously discuss. The issue, a less accessible vocabulary (and more accurate one) is necessary.

  21. Antonius Maximus

    "Carbon Footprint", "Biodiversity", and "Ecosystem" are all blurry terms whose meaning is so ambiguous that the words have no meaning at all. It is a fact that anyone who uses these words with any frequency believes any form of human involvement in 'nature' is a fundamental bad, and humans themselves impliedly bad as well. They use these words to carefully avoid this simple truth from being too obvious.


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