I agree that the pine beetle epidemic is a disaster and deserves the same federal assistance as BSE and Avian flu. All these issues are very serious and profoundly affect the lives of many Canadian families. Having said this, I should hate to see us treating these issues in a simplistic manner as President Bush has done in combating terrorism by throwing bombs on Afghanistan and Iraq in response to the 911 disaster. The announcement that the Liberal Government is going to hugely increase the cut of pine trees reminded me of this knee-jerk response. Hopefully this increase in cut of pine will correspond with a decrease in cut of healthy spruce? In all of these crises, we are losing sight of the root causes and only treating the symptoms.
Factory farming practices, overcrowding of animals, wholesale use of growth hormone and antibiotics, distant slaughter houses and packing plants all contribute to the BSE and avian flu dilemmas. These conditions are not found on organic farms.
Terrorism is usually spawned by inequality, poverty, exploitation and subjugation. Throwing bombs at the problem is not helpful and only spawns further hatred.
In the case of the pine beetle epidemic, again we need to look at the root causes. The beetle usually infests mature trees, over 60 years old. In the natural forest, there is diversity of species with a natural mix of maturity among species. When we clear-cut and then replant huge forests with one species that all mature at the same time, we are causing the problem. The distances that infected logs are trucked to the mill instead of having smaller local mills exacerbates the problem. Fire also naturally cleanses and while temporarily reducing the economic value of the forest, these smaller fires help to prevent the huge fires that are now becoming more prevalent. Is drastically increasing the cut the answer? How will the market cope with the massive flooding of lumber? Certainly employment will increase in the industry for the short term but what happens to the forest dependent communities once most of the trees are gone? How do we prevent this cycle from happening again? We must ensure diversity of species as well as stagger the replanting to ensure that vast tracts of forest don’t all mature simultaneously. The fact that we have not had cold enough weather to kill the beetles for the last several years is another symptom of climate change and again we must take responsibility for our wanton use of fossil fuels and their emissions.
It is time that we consider the environmental cost of our agricultural and forest practices alongside the economic cost. If we don?t consider these other important values now, it is our children and grandchildren who are going to suffer when they realize that our generation reaped or even raped all the profits through our greed without considering the integrity of our forests for future generations. We must all make a commitment now to plan for the long-term and to factor in the environmental cost along side the economic considerations. Each citizen has the power to influence decision making and to take responsibility for the future. Corporations and politicians will listen to the voice of the people if together we all make our voices heard.
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