The Last Stand of Trees
Our elderly neighbor has an avocado tree in her backyard, just a few feet from our property line. After last summer’s long dry spell, it desperately needed water and began to badly droop, but she never waters it because of her limited income. I hated to see it dying, so I came up with a plan. One night I ran a long hose behind our garage and threw the end over the wall so that it landed near the base of the tree. I turned the water on just enough for a steady dribble and let the tree soak all night. At 5:00 the next morning I removed the hose. Mission accomplished: The tree rallied in full force.
Our trees are precious. We have a responsibility to preserve the few we have left, for most of our old timber is gone. Forests are cut down much sooner because of the increasing demand for lumber. When my wife and I renovated our 1947 house we found 2x4’s in the walls that were true 2x4’s, not one-and-a-half inches by three-and-a-half inches. The wood was also very hard, unlike the light-weight Douglas fir one finds at conglomerate home improvement centers. Trees aren’t allowed to mature anymore. We are cutting down children, half-developed and immature.
Western civilization clear-cut the New World, so why should I be surprised when we still eradicate forests and all life they contain? Consider for a moment the ecosystem that a forest represents. Try, if you can, to make a complete list of every life-form under its boughs, including birds, mammals, insects, gastropods, arachnids, plants, mosses, lichens, fungi, nematodes, and bacterial forms. You cannot do it. You have no idea the complexity of a forest. Yet we sanction the destruction of entire populations for the almighty dollar. If it weren’t profitable, we wouldn’t plunder the land as we do. If we somehow manufactured a cheaper building product, our forests and all life therein would survive, and loggers would have to find something else to do. There actually have been programs to reeducate those in the logging industry to be a contributing part of society in many other ways, but unfortunately they have failed miserably.
Once while driving through a forest in Washington State I had the feeling that something was not quite right. Something was wrong with the density of the growth on either side of the road. I stopped the car to take a short walk into the woods and discovered that the forest ended after about twenty yards or so. I stood at the edge of the trees and looked out over a ravaged landscape, at the mutilated remains of a once-mighty forest. What wasn’t of value was left to rot on the ground for as far as I could see. The loggers had left a thin strip of trees on each side of the road to give the illusion that one was driving through a dense forest. I suppose that was at least better than nothing.
I wondered where all the wildlife had fled. Imagine the terror of diesel-powered engines of destruction suddenly ripping into your habitat. Without a moment to spare, without a chance to grab the family pictures or even the family pet, you immediately flee, away from the carnage — anywhere. You have no idea where your children are, it happened so fast. Every single creature that can move races for its life, trampling or being trampled. Wherever they all are now, I’m sure it’s getting very crowded, because we have not long to go before a phalanx of bulldozers and an army of chainsaw-wielding foot soldiers face that final, very crowded, solitary stand of trees.