I spent 34 years as a professional forester with the Department of Agriculture, Forest Service in a variety of assignments throughout the United States. I have observed and experienced numerous changes and, so called, advancements in the application of forestry principles throughout my career and retirement. My career was very rewarding, however, I have never been able to push aside my concern that something was lacking in the application of forest science concepts. It has become evident that the missing link is the human element we share with the natural world. We have made advancements in science and technology beyond our wildest expectations, yet the results have accelerated the destruction of our natural surrounding required for the sustenance of life. I finally felt the need to express my concerns by writing a book titled, Trees of Life – Our Forests in Peril.
Throughout my experiences, studies, and observations, it has become apparent that our indigenous people and many Eastern cultures have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of our connection to and dependency upon our natural world. Their very way of living necessitated their understanding of the complexity of nature and the relationships we were a part of. Today, we live in a society that is becoming more urbanized daily, and our ability to “read the land” and understand nature is rapidly disappearing.
Science tells us that 70%, and possibly as high as 80%, of all living organisms on our planet could not survive were it not for our remaining forested lands. We are also told by the Census Bureau that within 35 years we will have 10 BILLION people worldwide. These facts provide a basis upon which we can foretell our future. Our political institutions continue to debate the question of global warming, which is the consequence of several unsolved environmental issues. Maybe we need to be focused on the environmental issues themselves where the facts are easily defined. Deforestation has already reduced our original forest cover by slightly over 50%, and we are continuing to deforest the equivalent of 20 football fields every minute worldwide. The predicted population expansion will place unacceptable pressure on our remaining forest lands and certainly the demand for food will outweigh our need for forest covered lands.
There is no doubt in my mind that the current concepts of managing our forest cover will prove to be completely inadequate for future generations. Gifford Pinchot’s “Conservation” concept focuses on the resources we can take from the forests, and the principles of “Preservation” will not provide the necessary human involvement to restore past damage we have done to our natural surroundings. We must recognize the complexity and diversity that is an intricate part of nature and adjust our management to focus on the health and diversity of our remaining forest cover. We cannot stop deforestation, so we must optimize the health and diversity of the remaining forest cover by managing the forests rather than the resources from the forests.
The history of past failed societies demonstrates how they have collapsed as a result of failure to recognize and work together to understand our important connection to nature. Today, we have worldwide issues and we cannot afford to ignore the consequences. The solutions can be found if we come together as equals and share the traditional knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors who learned to live in balance with Earth’s limitations.
We are working with a number of groups and individuals to develop video materials which will present the connections we share with our natural world and the individual natural resources that we depend upon. The materials will provide a new approach to environmental education in our public schools and assist students in developing an appreciation for their natural surroundings.
I have been publishing a blog on my website, which provides thoughts and ideas about environmental concerns which are appearing almost daily in the media. You can access my website at forestsinperil.com.