Anticipating a strong reaction to witnessing the infamous logging up close, we discussed both sides of the issue - environmental concerns versus commercial pressures - before we made our trip to Washington state. We tried to be as fair and unbiased as green saps can be. We studied the temperate rainforest ecosystem & the history of the battle to protect spotted owls' habitat, but also learned about the realities of struggling local economies & jobs that depend on forest products. Yet even Chris and I were unprepared for the spectacle of those giant log-overloaded trucks careening incessantly down the road.
Just about everywhere on the Olympic Peninsula, when we pulled over for a scenic overlook or headed off for a hike, eighteen wheeler rigs stacked with newly felled trees whizzed by at regular five minute intervals, all day, from dawn to dusk.
Even the land preserved in Olympic National Park is not old "virgin forest" growth, since much of it has been logged two or three times in the 1800s or early 1900s before being "saved." But, it is recovering, verdant & lush compared to the surrounding private lands or US National Forests where clear cutting still occurs and whole hillsides are left barren or strewn with rejected logs, limbs & stumps of trees.
Nearly as distressing, in other parts of the upper forests where logging is not viewed as lucrative, the trees are being attacked by beetles and various diseases or fungus - things that have always existed but are now multiplying in epidemic proportions because of global warming. Winter temperatures no longer periodically drop low enough, plus there is significantly less rainfall year round, so the trees are "stressed" and much more susceptible to attack. On our hikes, we have seen the effects of pine beetle destruction on white bark pines and lodgepoles in the Rocky Mountains, including ranges reaching far into Canada, as well as in the temperate woodlands of the normally wet and cool Northern Cascades. As you climb in elevation, the dense and healthy trees slowly begin to darken, then thin, look increasingly anemic and rotten, and finally you're in the midst of a dingy and gray wooded graveyard. It's surreal - like moving from a gorgeous and exhilarating full color photo into a sickened and decaying daguerreotype printed in sepia or black & white tones. But, primarily, it's all startlingly lifeless and mostly in shades of ashy gray.
The result has been that M&K are now hyper conscientious about not wasting paper. They became consumed with writing editorials, boycotting wood & paper products and doing all school & journal writing electronically... It's not all bad, especially since the girls' idea of creativity as toddlers (and, truthfully, for many years after) had been to scribble one single item on a lovely, clean sheet of paper and then cast it aside as unworthy. They repeated this process with great merriment, possibly 10 or 20 times a day: ahh, the satisfying sound of perforated pages being ripped from a new spiral notebook and, bonus, the leftover squiggly pieces that rained down like confetti all over the floor! Or, there were the countless paper airplane-making contests where they folded dozens of prototypes for each design. I'd waver between being pleased with their ingenuity & enthusiasm and perturbed by their lack of restraint and the piles of "wasted" paper.
But, lo and behold, Katrianna has reformed and, like any new convert, she has become evangelical and presented us with new challenges that must be patiently "borne again" - mostly by the rest of us. For example, since Mom and Dad cannot seem to summon the courage to completely abandon their evil usage of paper towels, she has taken it upon herself to ration our sins - whether we buy the "pick your size" style rolls or not, she tears off each towel and proceeds to rip it in half and then in fourths and, if we don't stop her, in eighths, sixteenths... Then, when we want one, she dispenses - in grandiose disdain - a little one inch square of what used to be a paper towel and we're supposed to dry or clean or mop up with that.
Yet, despite their dedication and sincerity, M&K themselves fell off the conservation wagon fairly quickly. Reality set in: Where would Katrianna the gardener be without her paper cups and wooden toothpicks? And, though Mikaela is all for hugging trees, she also wants to sketch them with wooden colored pencils on pads of drawing paper, compose odes to them in her beloved poetry journals and sit underneath their branches to read book after book after book. . .
So, they reneged on their personal vows to give up all paper, especially after that well-known temptress of gluttony (school) required they do so. But they've devoted themselves to a new, more attainable goal: to squeeze a week's worth of math problems onto both sides of a single piece of paper and to draw five or ten miniature sketches per page in their sketch books, going for quality over quantity. Admittedly, it's not exactly chaining themselves to trees or protesting by climbing up & sharing residence with a spotted owl come rain or sleet or lumberjacks... But, still, it's a little constructive contribution to show that they give a hoot.
We've tried to use this as an opportunity to discuss finding a balance: buy products made from sustainable sources when possible but always be aware, less wasteful and generally much more appreciative of the value of our natural resources. It's been a lesson in moderation as much as activism. On Earth Day and every day.
This blog post is made from 100% recycled electrons & creates a minimum of post-consumer waste (IMHO)