Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ipswich, Shafted

This is the headquarters of the largest of the Audubon Society's Wildlife Refuges in Massachusetts, 2300 acres along the Ipswich River.
Countless times when I was growing up, I hiked through the fields, woods and wetlands of this beautiful preserve. There is a magical part where paths wind over and under huge caves formed of mossy boulders along a glistening lake, that is as primordial a garden as any tropical rain forest could be. That wilderness (and a forgotten formal garden on an abandoned estate next to my home) probably comprise the genesis of my life-long love for trees, nature, rocks, and flowers.
I am very grateful to my friend Susan from the Global Education Network for sharing this collection of photographs she and her husband Roger have taken - even though it saddens me immeasurably that a place I remember with the visceral happiness of youth is being destroyed.
They were last here to cross-country ski, and in just that brief time since, are appalled at the sudden impacts on all the varieties of trees along the trails.

Of those still standing, they found shredding bark.
Trails were blocked by trees, even though the park keepers assiduously clear. They cannot keep up.
Susan noted that there are white pine, birch, beech, maples, and oaks all suffering.
She and Roger are among the few to understand that damage to this many kinds of trees, this quickly, cannot be blamed on some sudden proliferation of species-specific pests, diseases, or fungus.

Rather those pathogens, pests, and even opportunistic creatures like woodpeckers
and beavers,
are inflicting mortal damage to trees whose immune systems are already fatally compromised by exposure to toxic greenhouse gases.
Susan is calling this ever more ubiquitous and highly abnormal trunk breakage "shafting" which is a rather clever and eloquent term under the circumstances.
Until the past couple of years I can't recall ever seeing such sights, and now they are commonplace.

It is incredible to us that people in New Jersey are so oblivious, for the most part, to the obvious deterioration and degradation of the landscape, which is matched by their counterparts in other states.
Such destruction isn't normal. Oldest daughter told me that last week on her way to a horse show in Virginia, the freeway was shut down for hours because a tree had fallen on a car. That was once unheard of, but it is happening more and more. I told her to watch out, trees have become dangerous.

The Audubon Society refused to acknowledge there was any overarching problem with the trees on their property when Susan enquired, even though there is quite a stack of split wood - piled underneath, of course, a dead tree.
It's nice that they are using solar power.
As Clive Hamilton observed (see last post) in some ways eco-environmentalists (especially I would add, those whose interests have become perverted by the desire to secure funding for their salaries and projects) have been a huge impediment to accomplishing what needs (needed?) to be done to preserve a habitable climate. They switch some lightbulbs, put up some solar panels, drive a car with low gas mileage, and then ignore the imperative that we must fight entrenched financial interests for the radical change that society must confront, if humans are to survive.


  1. Burn the fallen trees for firewood and winter heat. Carbon neutral. We all need to heat carbon neutrally if we can.

    Someone could make sure that the dead trees are harvested in an ecological manner for firewood. Tree cutters sometimes use draft horses or mules for dragging the logs out of the woods without building roads. That's green!

    But if the forests all die, we all die too.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Anon! Agreed we depend upon the forests for our lives.

    The only problem with your solution of burning the dead wood, is that even though it is neutral as far as CO2 goes, the particulate pollution from burning wood is worse than from other forms of fuel (oil, coal, biofuel). In terms of global warming and plant and animal health, burning it is a very bad idea. CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, just the most in volume and the longest lasting - but not the worst in terms of effects from ppm.

    We have unleashed very complex forces with too many unintended consequences to track!

  3. " the particulate pollution from burning wood is worse than from other forms of fuel (oil, coal, biofuel)" You seem to have bought into a meme from the fossil fuel industry.
    I've been heating with waste wood for over 25 years, my only heat.
    Smokey wood heaters are operating at insufficient flue temperatures. Add a little air to the mix and raise the temperature of the burn and, presto, the smoke is gone and so are the particulates turned to gas in the hot exhaust pipe..
    Modern wood stoves have catalytic plates that increase the temperature of the flue gases accomplishing the same higher exhaust temperature..
    Oil, coal, gasoline, and biofuel will all produce plenty of particulates when burned at an improper temperature, too.

    Wasting the energy contained in dead wood, and replacing that energy use with fossil fuel is even worse for the environment in the long run. Smokey fires show a lack of maintenance or education, not a problem with the fuel.

  4. Haha, Catman, I bow to your superior knowledge. But then the catalytic plates must be required.

    In any event, burning the wood for fuel is far preferable to wildfires. We will have one or the other.

  5. Yes, these dead trees will either rot, burn in a forest fire, or be harvested for fire wood. All these methods release the CO2, but if the wood is buried in a landfill, the carbon forms methane as it oxides. Methane causes damage to plants that may be quite similar to that caused by ozone. (I don't know.)

    I think of catalytic wood stoves the same way I think of cars with ABS brakes. These are luxury add-ons that shouldn't be necessary if the operator of the wood stove or the driver of the car were better at what they are trying to do. Small parts if the great 'dumbing down' that is our modern life.


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