Disregarding Nature’s lessons

June 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

A valuable comment Is taken from the introduction of a historical biography based on the legacy of Edmund Zavitz, “Two Billion Trees and Counting” (John Bacher, 2011). 

“Very few people in Ontario understand how much of the province had been degraded to desert-like wastelands, largely caused by deforestation.”  

Similarly, few living today have had the opportunity to experience the sand storms and erosion of top soil right across the Oak Ridges Moraine from St. Williams on the shores of Lake Erie to the Larose Forests south of Ottawa early in the nineteenth century.

Fortunately E. J. Zavitz along with many activists recognized the ecological disaster and worked to rebuild the sustainability of the region despite the fact that it has taken half a century to repair the danger to the extent that the region now contributes to the province’s profitability today.  In the process the province developed a system of tree nurseries which provided an annual 35 million seedlings for the planting of 300,000 acres of forest through the region as well as rehabilitation of vast marginal lands across the province.  

Examples include the late George Merek’s Limestone Lake Forests in Northern Ontario and many similar plantations throughout the province.

Unfortunately, this came to a halt when the Ontario government’s political decision eliminated the process as a cost-cutting measure in the last decade of the twentieth century.

The tribute to Zavitz ended with an era of rehabilitation of marginal lands as well as the loss of valuable ecological potential.  

It is almost symbolic having the prime minister promise to plant two billion trees as a measure toward meeting his promise along with most other political leaders to address the global-warming problem.  

The primary goal is reduction of carbon emissions, the basis for a greenhouse blanket limiting the escape of heat from the planet’s surface.  

Many scientists have promoted the increase of forest cover as the most effective and least costly solution to removing carbon from the atmosphere.  Despite the rhetoric, society as a whole continues to ignore the rules of nature while continuing to deforest the resource base, ignoring nature’s primary lesson to mankind, repeating the same mistake made over the past a century or more.

The Chinese government adopted a policy of converting sawmills to production of seedlings, standing trees being seen as of greater value to the country than in log decks for lumber mills.  The prime purpose seen by political leaders is to increase forest cover in the future.  Scientists however are warning us that it is too late for long term solutions alone, with a greater urgency for action needed within the next decade.  

In the middle of the last century, Ontario embarked on a Forest Inventory, assessing the sustainability of wood products for forest inventories to ensure the profits demanded by forest industry. Standing trees are of greater significance toward addressing the more serious problem of climate change facing society today.  Sound stewardship of the land base toward achieving this goal is essential.

The starting point is a similar inventory based on productivity of the land, crown, rural, municipal and urban.  If we are to reach the national objective pledged by our prime minister, we must first determine the state of our forest resources.  

Several countries have operated a component of their resource ecosystems as Community Forests.   In 1977 the United Nations published a text, “Our Common Future”, stressing the need for policy makers to consider a nation’s reliance on both the environment and development, money and ecology.  While these are essential, society as a whole, must include the third leg of a stool i.e. a greater emphasis on ‘community’.

Nature has shown us the necessity for close collaboration of the state, industry and community.  National governments are primarily concerned with determining policy while industry must be the principal source of income.  

What tends to be overlooked is the role of individuals implementing action at the grass roots level.  All three are essential.  

Canada is a relatively small player in the overall global scene.  However, the world’s Boreal Forest, throughout Russia, Scandinavia and Canada, is a major component of the world’s global warming solution.  

Canada has the potential to have a major role in regulating the basis for life in the world’s future. 

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