It is disturbing to learn that the Amazon basin has switched from a carbon sink to a carbon source. https://www.theguardian.com/…/amazon-rainforest-now…
The Amazon is one of the planet’s largest carbon stores and is critical to the earth’s health, however deforestation is destroying the forests and out of control fires are releasing carbon faster than the rapidly shrinking rainforest can absorb it.
This is a disaster on a global scale and is an example of poor forestry practices, no care for the environment and poor management of a resource in high demand.
Forests are one of the world’s great natural resources, and when such a valuable resource is left unprotected, we will see the greed and recklessness that we are now seeing in the Amazon.
Timber has always been a staple in society and the importance of this resource should not be underestimated. Battles have been long fought over timber, townships were settled in places that were selected for their abundance of timber, people have a great affection for timber products and wood products form a part of our lives every day.
Imagine for a moment your life without forestry products. There are those uses that are obvious such as your house, flooring, kitchens, furniture, paper, cardboard, tissues, newspaper, nappies, sanitary products and paper towels.
Then there are the little more obscure uses like as an additive in some fast foods (yes you read that right, including cheese and breads), bath towels and fabrics (rayon is a by-product of the pulping process), toothpaste, nail polish and paints, medications, sunscreen and even table tennis balls and guitar picks contain wood-based products.
In fact wood is such an amazing and flexible product with a wide myriad of uses that if it didn’t exist, we would have to invent it because we all use products made from it every day.
And the fact is we don’t just accidentally use forestry products, we actively seek them out.
Do you choose a paper or plastic bag for your shopping? Would you like the wooden dining table or a plastic one? Do you prefer cardboard packaging or plastic?
This all creates demand for forestry products because we want a better world, but if the source of these forestry products is not responsible and not sustainable, well then we create the situation that is unfolding in the Amazon right now.
And that is why attitudes need to change.
Unlike the Amazon, in which an area the size of Tasmania is clear felled every 84 days, in Tasmania we replant every tree that is harvested and we regenerate all native forests.
The numbers and the scale of Tasmanian forestry is there for all to see with more than 300,000 hectares of plantation forests producing the bulk of the state’s forestry industry whilst over a million hectares or 91% of old growth is locked up and protected.
In Tasmania we are protecting our forest reserves for the health of the planet, and we are producing a renewable and biodegradable resource in a responsible and sustainable way. We are the envy of the world, because we have the best of both worlds.
We have vast areas of protected native forests, a thriving plantation sector and locally produced forestry products for housing, furniture and fibre.
Yet we are always an easy target for critics as the impact of harvesting is right there, accessible and plain for all to see. You only need a car and a phone to get out to a coupe and take photos of stumps and forest harvesting.
You might equally get a shock if you were to wander into an abattoir to see where your lamb chops come from, the process of obtaining the things we need is not always pretty to look at, of course ours is not behind closed doors which means it attracts more attention.
We cut down trees, we know that and you know that. But we also grow trees, millions of them every year and it is important that we talk about and understand that if attitudes are to change.
The fact is that in order to provide the timber we need to build houses and to supply fibre, trees will need to be cut down. Despite the massive leaps forward that the industry has made in recent decades we haven’t yet found a way to build you a home without cutting down trees.
So what’s it to be?
Forestry products are in record demand globally as they provide the solutions the world is seeking out such as renewability and carbon storage.
We are finding new ways to use wood fibre to provide a renewable and biodegradable solution to plastic waste.
The industry in Tasmania is sustainable. We replace every tree that is harvested and we are literally “growing” our plantation sector as well as finding more and better uses for our plantation timbers.
We have locked up and protected much of our high conservation forests and we are now recognised as being on the front line when it comes to solutions to tackling climate change.
So, attitudes must change, and our hardened critics need to take a fresh look at the Tasmanian industry to understand how much we have changed and adapted in line with community expectation.
What is happening in the Amazon and other parts of the world is wrong, there is no doubt.
Demand for responsibly sourced forestry products is good, it is renewable and providing the environmental solutions we need.
What is happening in sustainable forestry in Tasmania is world leading, and we are continually improving.
But for many this balance is not enough, they choose to live in denial about where the forestry products they demand come from and have made an industry of criticising our little corner of the world for doing it right.
The Amazon has 529 million hectares of forests (total land area 634 million). Tasmania has just over 3.4 million hectares of forests (total land area 6.8 million).
The Amazon is emitting more carbon than it absorbs.
Tasmania has created a sustainable industry that is renewable and is a carbon store.
If you are demanding paper, cardboard and wood over plastic, steel and concrete, well then you are demanding forestry products.
The question is, where are you demanding it from? Tasmania or the Amazon?
So next time you hear someone say they don’t support Tasmanian forestry, maybe consider this, is that attitude part of the climate solution or a part of the problem.