Forest scientists Martin Moroni and Ian Ferguson tell us that Old-Growth Forests Won't Save The Planet (SMH 05/09/2011). Forests and wood products invite intense analysis in the present age. Is this scrutiny as rigorously applied to the fossil-fuel driven economy in which we live? Or to the timber alternatives manufactured in this economy?
A rarely-challenged view says that
timber used in building requires a special social and environmental
assessment that steel, bricks and concrete do not. Everywhere
manufactured building materials are considered in terms of Wise Use.
They are forever 'touching the earth lightly' (steel) or acting as a
'passive collector for the sun's energy' (concrete). Worn phrases - yes
- but validating of the design and environmental worth of concrete,
bricks and steel.
Timber, meanwhile, is always Good or Evil. Surely a lost opportunity for Wisdom to play a more secular role. This Wisdom model - unburdened by the insistence of pantheist ethics - would ask not just about whether forests are managed or not managed. It might be concerned about end-use. It could also be about waste minimisation, keeping state forestry profitable, replacing non-viable markets like woodchip, moving greater volumes into Appearance-Grade products and allowing markets to fund renewal of forest resource. It should be about essential value and an increased commercial worth. Most of these processes are ethically-neutral and can be judged as worthy to some degree on a Wisdom standard.
A useful side benefit of the
Wisdom model might be better social cohesion. Less rural disaffection
with cascading urban values. In the cities we regularly fall victim to a
cultivated pop-think. Identity politics is not a good way to promote
either good consumer choice or forest certification models. Rather than
encouraging popular sentiment and opinion in favour of reforms, it
creates instead a sector of permanent exclusion that defines and
reinforces a preening Meritocracy.
Moroni and Ferguson tell us that old-growth timbers, over which the middle classes do fret, are already in reserves or National Parks. Not available for logging. The forest resource that the sawmilling industry wants to harvest is regrowth forest - State Forests that have been logged in the recent past and managed in the regrowth phase to continue to produce sawlog.
It is a valid point but reassures in an uneven way. There is a lack of balance in resource use between pulplog and sawlog. Some forest types in Australia are vigorous and renewable; some native forest climes and structures are fragile and elegant in their diversity - and slow to recover from logging.
I am intolerant of sharing native
forests with the paper industry - though I'm sensible to the role of
woodchip as a genuine by-product of sawmilling - in much smaller
volumes. On the other hand, I resent the privilege of access to
renewable native timbers being denied based upon the soulless
abstractions of the new environmental elites. The dogma of the
pantheists is as rigid and as driven by fixed mantras and repetitions as
fundamentalist religion ever was.
Moroni and Ferguson conclude by promoting hardwood timber use in building against manufactured alternatives. Should people who are indifferent to timber be encouraged to buy it? It makes me a poor marketing advocate - but I don't think so. It wouldn't bother me if native hardwoods ceased to be a cost-effective alternative to engineered products. Are they truly in competition in this modern era - as is continually claimed in media? Admittedly there is a diminishing sector of hardwood product that competes in the structural marketplace - and, likely, it will not disappear - but it will contract over time. The trend mandated by the Wisdom model should be that plantation softwoods, non-timber or timber engineered materials continue to take over the core structural market.
May it come to pass that native
hardwood sawlogs are reserved for their visual and tactile qualities -
furniture, visible structures and appearance grade products - a process
already well advanced - and if higher values are part of this shift,
then so be it. Relative values will help to define essential differences
within this broad universe referred to in media-speak as Forest Product
- paper, softwood and the high-rotation crop-like end of the industry on
the one hand - and on the other - the truly wonderful individual species
of native hardwoods that take 80 years - and more - to mature.
Recycled Spotted Gum
Post-Grade floors are a variety of Feature Grade boards that exhibit penetration features in the face of board.
Deep wine-red tones of Forest Red Gum, Ironbark, Grey Gum, Bloodwood and Sydney Blue Gum in this batch of dressed timbers.
The subtle khaki-browns of NSW Spotted Gum in a seasoned board suitable for a range of furniture
Clear, strong and light ash boards in a bookshelf size
- no joining to be done.
Every now and then you discover something
special appearing from the outfeed of the moulder.
Timber so dense and fine-grained
Muscular reds grading to creamy reds and
red-browns near log centres.
20 boards at 2.4m length. Western Australia's equivalent of our River Red Gum
- but in a blonde-brown timber