Waste not want not

August 4, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

The future prosperity of this planet is largely dependent on the ability of humanity to manage land and oceans in a sustainable manner.  To date society has not done a creditable job of conserving the basic elements on which we rely, what we require on daily basis for survival.  Living in several parts of the world we experienced how residents made use of the productive potential provided  by nature.  Returning to Canada was a shocking experience when we realized how wasteful society is.  Every individual requires air to breathe, food to eat, and water to drink, services which cannot be replaced by ingesting currency.

All life depends on plants produced by photosynthesis, a source of energy dependent on sunlight.  Nature has provided surface elements, i.e: land and water as a basis for growing plants be it grass, shrubs, trees or ocean foliage.  A colleague, quoting an old-timer spoke of a period of time when forest harvest in this area resulted in about a dozen trainloads of logs leaving the Angus station each week, based on the cutting of four-foot diameter white pine and three-foot red pine trees.  Barns built of sixteen-inch lumber were once a common feature for storage of hay crops from lands cleared of trees in past generations. 

A recent article in the Citizen by columnist and close friend, Constance Scrafield (The call for trees, July 7) focused on the planting of trees in large parking lots.  The overriding principle of the article was ‘misuse’ of land, noting the value to society of increasing the area of forest cover anywhere.  We have become familiar with huge shopping malls with many acres of paved land providing parking for thousands of shoppers with multiple indoor business within walking distance from a single parking spot. Not a tree to be seen anywhere!

As the writer has noted the use of land for urban development has limited Nature’s provision of ecological benefits.  Paved land is unproductive in terms of the basic needs of society.   Experience in China several years ago exposed a unique policy, the closure of logging companies, converting sawmills to seedling production.  It was realized that standing trees were of far greater economic value to the country than in the form of saw logs for conversion to lumber.  Encroachment of the Gobi Desert was causing massive erosion of agricultural lands and severe dust storms limiting manufacturing productivity in far off urban communities.  Establishing greater area of foliage was helping to protect farmlands severely impacted by erosion while restricting manufacturing potential in urban communities.

Whatever the motivation for increasing the area of vegetative cover, the basic policy of following Nature’s example goes without question.  Urban forests contribute a great deal to society both in an economic sense and quality of life.  A colleague promoted the increase of forest cover on school yards, church properties and parks, projects designed to lower urban temperatures by two or three degrees.  In addition to increasing forest cover on parking lots, roof top gardens are of ecological benefit to many restaurant owners as well as providing increased sources of food for personal consumption.

Few who are living in our cities are aware of the desert conditions faced by folk in southern Ontario in the past centuries.  Establishment of the 300,000 acres of county forest and largescale planting of forest cover has rehabilitated large regions to ecological productivity.  Increasing aquafers have been the basis for improved agricultural potential and resulted in restoration of lakes and rivers.  One ecologist noted that in his estimation the primary product of the new forests was wildlife as return to year-round flow increased fish habitat and breeding potential for the commercial fish industry.

The vast area of Boreal Forest in northern Canada contributes a great deal to the world’s absorption of atmospheric carbon.  A review of the productive area of national forests would undoubtedly reveal the potential for increasing the country’s ability to tackle the world-wide problem of global warming, the basis for major regional climate change problem.  Melting of glaciers and arctic ice fields is changing ocean levels and currents causing changes in climate while drought, wild-fires and flooding with destruction of whole communities and loss of life being the cost of resource abuse.

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