Archive for December, 2009

“Wood fibre: the oil of the next decade”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I heard this odd headline on the radio today: the oil of the next decade….wood…I could hear the execs at several forestry companies I know high-fiving themselves all the way from Granville Island.

But, I’m thinking maybe we’ve done the save the trees thing to death. No argument with the idea that we were mowing down old growth faster than a small lawn, but we still need wood and the people who know how to harvest it. And we still need fibre.

I believe we have lulled ourselves into complacency thinking that using computers has somehow saved the earth from a catastrophe.  But no action is possible without an equal and opposite reaction, if I remember my physics correctly. We may need to consider using fibre as a resource going forward. Not necessarily all wood fibre, but we need fibre. I think there is a way to make it work, to the benefit of our planet. Goodness knows, it’s time to have a look.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am cribbing from facts presented in  ”This is Ed, #13 Balance” presented by the New Page Corporation — a paper company in Miamisburg, Ohio. And I am a child of the westcoast, home of one of North America’s primary softwood lumber resources. But facts are piling up from other sources that compel me to go toe-to-toe with the status quo, an attitude I’ve had trouble carrying around my whole life.

Now, here’s a bit of a pin to burst the “paperless era” bubble. 200 million items of e-waste are thrown away every year in the U.S. alone. You may have seen the images of peasants in Guiyu, China scrambling over piles of mercury (and worse) laden computer waste. It’s just getting shipped where no one in the western world has to look at it or think about what it’s doing to people and the planet.

Here are some more facts:

> 70% of toxic waste in the U.S. comes from e-waste
> Burning a CD produces 4 times as much CO2  as printing a single annual report
> Spam emails sent annually have the footprint of driving a car aound the globe 1.6 million times.
> 57% of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2008, while only 18% of the three million tons of electronic waste in the U.S. is recycled. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Electronic devices, particularly older ones, contain numerous hazardous materials that are harmful to human health and the environment. Lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, to name just a few — all are increasingly finding their way to the water table through landfills around the world. Source

Over my years on this planet, I have observed that we as human beings are compelled to polarize. For the majority of us, it’s either black or it’s white.  Forestry bad. Greenpeace good. Socialism bad. Free enterprise good.

Come on, people. Think about it. It’s not that simple. If it was, we would have it all solved by now. We are complex beings. There is a lot to consider. And yes, we only have one planet. But it must sustain not just the albino bears and the maiden hair ferns, but us as well. So how do we find a balance?

We have to think not just with our hearts, but with our minds. We have learned to use resources. Now we need to learn to use them judiciously. In balance. With care. Wood is a sustainable resource, properly managed. Never mind hemp, grasses and all other manner of quick growing fibre. We also need our computers. I, for one, will not give up blogging. But, once again, everything in moderation.

My overall point is that we have all but crushed the forestry industry in the last decade. I saw it coming in the early 80s. We had forestry clients. I asked them if they were paying attention. They laughed — and now they’re all gone. Every one of them that we worked for is NO MORE. There were good people working in all of them. People who cared about nematodes and bitsy thingies that lived in the soil and supported biodiversity. They were passionate about living things. It’s not black. Nor is it white. If there is good in this world, so there is evil. We need to be watchful. But we need also to consider not running repeatedly from starboard to port. The boat will sink.

Think about it.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.