Can we save our environment? Can green woodworking help?
Unfortunately that question is not hyperbole. We have done, and continue to do, so much damage to our environment that climate change is not the only danger we face. Overpopulation is a leading cause in habitat destruction which in turn is leading to unprecedented extinctions.
Clear cutting forests is a serious danger to ecosystems around the world. We need the forests to protect the life within them.
While it may seem like it won't be a big deal if we loose creatures like this little guy,
the fact is, we have several reasons to fear mass extinction, not least important: don't you think the world would be slightly less beautiful if frogs like this one didn't exist?
Next, without diversity we will miss a lot.
Take tomatoes for example.
Okay, isn't this going a little far, from green woodworking to tomatoes? I don't think so. It's all related and isn't that, after all the point?
So, back to the tomatoes and the environment.
The tomatoes that are sold in supermarkets look great and last a long time. But they have no flavor. Have you ever tried a Brandywine tomato fresh from the vine? It's a whole different taste, juicy and sweet.
Imagine if all the tomato species were extinct except those in the grocery store? What would summer be like? So, who cares if one type of tomato goes extinct?
I do and I hope you do too.
In a similar line, if we loose variety, all the remaining populations are more vulnerable. If we have 15 types of finches and one species is wiped out by an epidemic there will still be 14 types of finches among us. If we've already lost 14 of those species we have to be damned sure nothing happens to that last species.
As green woodworkers and consumers we need to make sure we don't loose tree species. The danger is not only clear cutting forests - sometimes to get at a single valuable tree- but the poverty that makes such cutting necessary.
When we use rare species they become more valuable which means more people want to harvest them which means.... Somehow we need to figure a way to break the cycle.
There is also a lot left to learn about our world and the other life on it. It's a shame to loose species before we even know anything about them (medicinal uses come to mind).
While we humans are amazingly industrious and do great good, we are also soiling the only planet we have. It's all too easy to say it's someone else's fault (big business, the government, that other country over there), but the truth is we all have to do our part.
So, where does all this leave a green woodworker?
I love trees and there is a part of me that hates to see them used for lumber. On the other hand, if properly harvested, trees are an infinitely renewable resource, and I certainly love the result of working with wood.
I think it's possible to see the beauty of the forest in a piece of woodworking (just as I often see the factory in a piece made with plastic). I'm not going to quit woodworking, but I will do it with an eye on the environment.
In the end, I compromise.
I avoid using woods that are endangered or that involve clear cutting fragile forests. However, the issue is not simple, and legitimate needs can often be in conflict.
Do we have the right to ask someone who's kids are hungry not to clear cut acreage that could be used to grow food crops? On the other hand, if we continue to destroy forests and other habitat we risk our very planet.
Photosynthesis, for instance, is essential for creating the oxygen we breath.
So, what does it mean to be a green woodworker? Ideally, I'd like to use only certified lumber - that is, lumber that has been certified to be sustainably grown. However, it is hard to find and costs a lot more.
I find the best way for me, personally, to deal with these issues is to use local Northern hardwoods (US & Canada). I buy from a lumber yard that carries several species of sustainably grown wood. Of course, what I really like is to use wood that I can find or salvage.
Not much in the large scheme of things, but it is a step towards my goal of being a green woodworker and a green citizen.
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