The Final Forest

This will be last last logging diatribe, I promise. But the past three days could have been called "Adventures Through Tree Farms", and 100 miles of riding through that landscape gives you plenty of time of think. 


When I was a young environmentalist (I started a local EarthSavers Club in first grade) the headline grabber in the 90s was the battle for the old growth forests in this very place we're riding through. The supporters of the rare spotted owl went head to head with Washington loggers, who were hell bent on cutting down over giant cedar, spruce, fir and hemlock they could get their chainsaws on. When I got to college I learned about the Earth First movement, and a lot of their monkey wrenching during those battles involved chaining themselves to the last remaining old growth trees or debilitating the logging trucks transporting the fallen trees.


Travis has been reading a book called Final Forest by William Dietrich, which profiles ground zero of the logging battles in Forks, Washington, a town we passed through. They are the self-proclaimed Logging Capital of the World. Turns out the hyperbole of Trees vs. Jobs was a little more complicated than purported by either side, and it took Dietrich 600 pages to hash it all out, so I won't attempt it in a blog post. 

However, these are my observations as a very outside observer: these once-thriving logging towns we keeping passing through are obviously dwindling because there aren't nearly as many old growth trees to cut down. And yes, trees do grow back, but they grow back in neatly-planted tree farms which are easily harvested by one man in a giant machine, instead of many men with chainsaws. Even after the Trees vs. Jobs struggle in Forks, the skilled workers who fought so desperately for their way of life were replaced with machines by their employers. 


The heart of the matter still stands-- those who profit the most from the forest don't really give a shit about Trees OR Jobs. They care about money. Logging companies are just like mining companies, which are just like fracking companies: they will extract and extract and extract resources until there's nothing left and then move on, without a second thought to the future of the land or the wellbeing of their loyal workers.

That's capitalism for you. 

Obviously some things have got to change if I want to feel good about giving this world to my children to inherit. Nature will never exist ever again as "untouched by Man." Man has touched everything and changed it all. I'm setting myself up for disappointment if I ever think that I was see a truly "wild" place in my lifetime. We have an exciting challenge ahead of us to make a world that's realistically sustainable. We'll be on the right track if we work on developing our society without developing all our natural resources, and if we work on centering our lives less on debt and want and more on exchange and self-reliance. 


And we have successes to turn to for inspiration as we move forward. Culminating with the Trees vs. Jobs battles of the 90s, public opinion about clear cutting old growth forest has changed. The spotted owl was listed as a threatened species, and to protect its habitat logging on federal lands in the Peninsula has greatly declined or even stopped. These days, the Wild Olympics campaign has garnered congressional support and there is proposed legislation to put 126,000 additional acres of old growth, second growth, and rivers in the Olympic Peninsula into protection. There is still strong opposition to the bill in logging communities but according to polls, 64% of Washington voters in the 6th Congressional District support the measure. 

There's still a lot of work to do, but maybe we will be able to take our grandkids to visit the rainforest giants.