At Loggerheads

Driving north on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Route 37) we started to see the effects of logging. While it seems as though the trees go on and on and on, that we’ll never run out of them, the truth is that logging is hard on the planet — and everything on Earth.


It so happened that we’d been reading about tree planters — I’ll bet you didn’t know this is a viable profession, planting trees — and were learning all kinds of things about our woody friends, the level of their endangerment, and the far-reaching effects of the timber industry. Of course, industries only thrive because we — consumers — make the choices that add to their coffers and encourage their behavior.

All of this is why Bob and I buy and use less paper than we once did (and another reason I have been so devoted to all things Web, including online education and training — no more teachers, no more books, smaller carbon footprint).

But I digress. And once I go down that path, I’ll end up on my soapbox about how we take our trees for granted, will probably use them up, and if we want a glimpse at what our future looks like if we do that then we only need to look at those huge statues on Easter Island, the ones with the big eyes and funny hats that stare out at the ocean. That island was once thick with trees, until the leaders decided they needed to make their rock statues, more and more of them, and when they did they had to move them from the quarry to the shoreline, which meant cutting down trees and using them as rollers. Bad ending for the people when they used up all their wood this way, couldn’t make fires, couldn’t build shelters, and died away as a population because of it.

But I digress. Again.

It’s easy to see why we’ve thought the trees will always be here:


Along this stretch of Northern British Columbia, the trees go on for miles. And miles. Everywhere you look, there are trees.


So you’d think that the replanting efforts are working. Yep, new trees. But here’s the catch: regrowing a forest takes a long time. Hundreds of years. Millenia for the soil — disturbed by the deforestation process — to regenerate itself.

We’re out of time. So we appreciate the efforts of the huge timber companies to re-plant huge plats of land where they have mowed down trees, but somewhere we know, deep down, that it won’t make any difference, not for a long, long time.

If you’re as intrigued by this topic as we were, and want to get an idea of what life as a professional tree planter is like, pick up a copy of Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, winner of British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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