By Marc Heller, (E&E News, May 19, 2020)
A future coronavirus aid package in Congress might become the next battleground in a fight over forest policy.
The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.
Leading the latest effort is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced a broad package he said would give forest communities an economic boost while providing wildfire crews protection from the spreading virus (E&E Daily, May 12).
Sensing that a big appropriations bill could give logging advocates an opportunity, a group of scientists skeptical of the industry wrote to key federal lawmakers last week, urging them to refrain from putting pro-logging measures into any upcoming legislation, including on climate change. Continue reading
On Monday May 11, Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist with the Geo Institute in Ashland, Oregon, talks with Locus Focus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal reminder of how out of balance our planet has become. Decades of explosive human population growth and an increasingly mobile population have put us in close contact, squeezed natural habitats, and forced wild animals to occupy cities or perish. These factors play a significant role in causing and spreading pandemics, like the one that is now shutting down the world.
We’ll discuss how confined animal feed operations, poaching, overhunting, and consumption of wild animals as food or trade can also spark novel virues to jump from other wild species to humans—which is what has happened with COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is a distress signal coming to us from imperiled ecosystems and wildlife; it is not a one-off event. The best gift we could give not just our planet but ourselves is to start viewing strong environmental policy as preventive medicine.
Listen online: https://www.kboo.fm/media/80521-bringing-earth-balance-times-crisis
By Carl Meyer
Canada’s National Observer
Published April 30th 2020
Companies can cut down whole trees to be ground into pellets for fuel if they are “inferior,” says British Columbia’s natural resources ministry, a position that has led to concerns the government is “rebranding” old growth forests as low-quality in order to justify logging them.
B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told National Observer on April 27 that “timber harvesting has evolved over time” and that the industry is now focusing on sending “high-quality” lumber to sawmills.
Other whole trees, the ministry said, can get sent to plants that manufacture wood pellets, a type of biomass fuel that is burned for heating or electricity and is made by compacting together wood material. Keep reading.
Listen to the April 27th Jefferson Exchange radio interview with Dr. Dominick DellaSala and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Franz Baumann connecting Earth, natural systems, and human health.
Zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 are a classic example of where ecosystems and human health intersect.
By Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple, and Franz Baumann
Published Monday April 20, 2020 at The New Republic (read auf Deutsch)
The butterfly effect is a thought experiment about how a small change in a system—a butterfly flapping its wings—can ripple through complex, interconnected systems, eventually cascading into larger events, like a tornado in Oklahoma. Despite having been popularized by the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
While there’s uncertainty about how the novel coronavirus originally infected people, it might have started as viral spillover (transfer) from bats or other wild animals. One emerging hypothesis based on DNA evidence is that, because of natural habitat destruction, horseshoe bats in China were forced into cities. Under increased stress, the bats shed viruses that were picked up by people and perhaps other animals in an early infection cluster. Alarmingly, some 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases worldwide are exchanged between humans and wild animals. Think West Nile, Lyme, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Zika. The deadly Ebola outbreak has been linked to deforestation in Africa and to virus spillover from consumption of primates or bats that places hunters, consumers, and wildlife at risk.
By Dominick DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann
Published Monday, April 20th 2020 at the Medford Mail Tribune
The staggering loss of life from the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily lives into chaos. Whenever it is deemed safe enough to leave the protective bubble of our homes, the world will be markedly different. To reduce the chances of the next pandemic, human and planetary health need to be solved together, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The leading hypothesis on how the virus originally infected people in China is that it started in clusters as viral spillover from infected bats and possibly other wild animals forced into close proximity with people. But don’t blame bats or the Chinese for the Earth out of balance.
Geos Institute and conservation groups called on the Forest Service to properly analyze and reduce carbon emissions from logging in roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest, southeast Alaska, a globally significant carbon warehouse.
Read the Supplemental Comment on Alaska Roadless Rule Draft EIS Concerning New Information on Tongass National Forest Carbon Sink
Debate on wildfire heats up in Oregon with Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist calling on legislators not to make matters worse by increasing logging.
Legislators will consider several bills in the upcoming short session that could expand and overhaul the way Oregon works to fight – and prevent – wildfires.
The plans include an unprecedented effort to restore forest health through thinning, removing brush and small trees, and increasing prescribed burns. Over the next 20 years, supporters aim to do that work on 5.6 million acres of forest and rangelands — an area equivalent to the state of New Jersey, or nearly 10 percent of Oregon’s entire land base.
The proposals also call for expanding firefighting resources at the Oregon Department of Forestry, putting more boots on the ground and modernizing equipment to put fires out when they’re small, thereby keeping costs low. And they would add administrative staff to make sure the state is promptly invoicing and collecting its firefighting costs – a problem that drove the Department of Forestry to the brink of insolvency last fall.
Read the full article: https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2020/01/lawmakers-look-to-supersize-firefighting-and-forest-cleanups-critics-say-it-could-be-counterproductive.html
Conservation North, supported by Geos Institute science, pushes for ban on old growth logging in world class inland rainforest in British Columbia.
When professional foresters Al Gorley and Garry Merkel were appointed to lead a sweeping review of how B.C.’s old-growth forests are managed, they made a deal with each other before hitting the road.
They wouldn’t come to a single conclusion until they had wrapped up what Gorley calls their “listening phase” — four months touring the province and gathering input from people of all walks of life, from forestry company executives to people who came in “off of the street or out of their garden and just wanted to share a personal perspective.”
After visiting 30 communities, the duo is taken aback by the consensus they’ve encountered as they prepare to wrap up the “listening” phase of the old-growth strategic review this week.
Keep reading: “Amid forestry struggles, panel finds ‘surprising’ consensus on old-growth logging concerns in B.C.“, by Sarah Cox, published Jan 27, 2020 at The Narwhal.
View at Nature Research Sustainability Community. A response to Schleicher et al. “One Billion People to be Directly Affected by Protecting Half.” Nature Sustainability (2019): 1-3.
We are in a planetary recession marked by biodiversity collapse, climatic upheavals, freshwater shortages, global toxification, and unprecedented human and nonhuman displacements (Ripple et al, 2017). The only positive outlook lies in deep solutions and new narratives. Protecting at least half the Earth, terrestrial and marine, offers such an outlook. Safeguarding nature on a vast scale is necessary both to halt the mass extinction underway and to prevent the huge unleashing of carbon that will result from further ecological degradation (Steffen et al., 2018). In addition to affording robust natural solutions to the ecological exigencies that are imperiling all complex life, the Half Earth (or Nature Needs Half) initiative charts a course toward a sustainable and equitable human coexistence alongside the millions of life forms with whom we share the planet (Noss et al., 2012; Wilson, 2016; Dinerstein et al., 2017; Kopnina 2016; Kopnina et al., 2018).
In implementing Half Earth, conservationists, scientists, and policy-makers should work in concert with indigenous people and local populations (Goodall, 2015). Such efforts are aimed at ensuring that, en route to preempting further ecological catastrophes and healing the relationship between humanity and Earth, wide-scale nature protection will not adversely affect people in proximity to these natural areas (Goodall, 2015; Naidoo et al., 2019). The level of protection proposed will also bar corporate ventures, such as mining, logging, and industrial agriculture, from profiteering at the ongoing expense of the natural world and local and indigenous people (Vettese, 2018).