My side trip into the social changes have been based on my personal observations during my life, 34-year career and 15 different assignments throughout the country. Just 5 years into my career, I accepted an assignment with the Job Corp Conservation program and spent 4 years working with young men ages 16 to 21. They spent half of their time in education and the other half in work completing projects on the National Forests. The experience changed my life and the remainder of my career. The importance of human needs and desires became paramount in the pursuit of my efforts to manage the natural world and our valuable forests. The diversity that was necessary for human communities to function allowed me to see the same necessity within forest communities however, it was not until my retirement years that I began to completely understand that the extend of diversity was the measure of perfection. I have come to understand this concept is true for all life systems on our planet. My view of changing social values and norms has expanded my appreciation for the complexity of our natural world and a deeper understanding of the importance of our remaining tree covered lands. It is now time to return to the forest where I am at home and belong.
Retirement provided time to become an avid deer and turkey hunter where I spent many hours sitting in a blind observing life within the forest. It provided time to recall experiences and observations from my years with the Forest Service. Early in my career, I became aware of the variety of vegetative conditions within the forests and undertook a project to map those differences for the Ranger District I was assigned to. Unfortunately, I did not have the depth of understanding to appreciate that I was observing individual forest communities not just different vegetative types. Hours of observation opened my eyes to the different relationships that existed within these unique communities and demonstrated how inter-connected the living organisms were. Nothing is its self without all the rest! Everything in the living world is connected, has a purpose and contributes to the sustenance of life. Yes, what I was observing were individual communities where relationships and diversity provided the elements that support the variety of life systems that together functioned as a community.
When I presented my observations of the social changes within the human life system, it was because of the similarities I had found to the changing conditions within the natural world we depend upon for survival. My education and experience in forestry, has provided the basis for understanding that every single organism has a purpose, we are all connected and cannot survive without each other and it is the relationships we share that sustains life on our planet.
I am concerned that today’s facts and data suggest we are facing a worldwide problem where human demands and requirements for land and resources, will exceed Earth’s capability to provide. Our expanding world population and rate of deforestation, I am convinced, are the two major environmental issues that will determine our future destiny. 10 billion people, according to scientists, may well be the limit of Earth’s ability to support and the US Census Bureau predicts our world population will reach that number in 30 years. Today, the tropical forests of Brazil are burning to make room for increased agricultural production and as populations expand, more land will be required for food production, urban sprawl and new infrastructure. Over half of our original forest covered lands have already been deforested and converted to other uses or reverted to desert like conditions. Controlling population expansion is a complex and difficult issue with very limited opportunities to resolve and as the world population continues to expand, accelerating deforestation is inevitable.
The science of forestry will be challenged to play a leadership role in managing our remaining forested lands to benefit life systems on our planet in the future. This will necessitate a major deviation from managing the natural resources we take from the forests and a continuous flow of products from the forests, too managing forests for optimum health and maximum diversity so as to supply the elements required to support life systems on Earth. This will require new goals and objectives for every acre for forest covered lands. No longer can we manage for the sustainable flow of traditional wood products but, must focus on providing a store house for carbon dioxide, the production of life sustaining oxygen, purification of water, scrubbing our air of poisonous toxins, preventing the loss of rich top soil, providing shade to cool the surface of Earth and sustaining the unique attributes of each forest community. Artificial reforestation, using plantations of single species and single age classes, must be replaced with natural regeneration from local seed sources and non-indigenous species introduction must be terminated. Gifford Pinchot’s definition of forestry, “the growing of trees as a crop”, must be replaced with, “Providing the elements that support life on our planet by managing our remaining forested lands for health and diversity”. As our forested land base shrinks, the health of our remaining tree covered acres will become increasingly critical! Our pressing issue is how we initiate these mandatory changes in time to make a difference? Where is the leadership in the science of forestry, that has the wisdom to see and re-direct the science to focus on the life sustaining elements forested lands providing sustenance for 80% of the life systems on Earth? Who will break the old molds and institute the new principles required to provide our desired future for LIFE? We need to return to our home in the forest that gives life to each and every one of us! We can no longer afford to alienate ourselves from the forests and the natural world. It is only there, that we will find our future!