23 December 2005

Tree Hugging


Ah, Christmas. The time of year when we decapitate a member of one of five kingdoms of life on earth to put it in our house though it belongs outside. (Unfortunately, I have been guilty of such slaughter in the past.) Such good common sense we have. And such a respect for nature/God/_____ (take your pick or insert your own). Well, New Zealanders follow this common practice too, and they may have an even easier time doing so.

Guess what is one of the most common farms found in New Zealand? It is not one that raises livestock or grows crops. It is a tree farm.

From the moment we began driving around the country, we discovered patches of mountain with evenly spread trees of identical species at identical heights of growth. Then we discovered clearcut patches of these same mountains. Then we saw these words: Tree Farm.

Apparently, New Zealand sets aside acres upon acres of land to farm pine trees. These are not trees for use at Christmas, but trees grown for the ever increasing WANT of new timber. The land utilized is old pasture that is extremely fertile, so it grows these trees at a rate nearly double that in the U.S. or Canada. And guess whose timber companies have set up shop here?

Though the prospect of growing trees to farm is a slightly more sustainable notion than clearcutting the old growth forests that millions of species make their habitat and call home, there are still vital ecological health concerns. There is the major problem of erosion, which among other things, ends in polluting lakes and rivers with the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides used in the soil. More ills include blight due to overpopulation with a single species, ecosystem disruption and dissolution, and just plain exploitation of natural resources. Not to mention a clearcut mountain is a sore sight to see. I think we humans often forget that when something looks all wrong and feels all wrong that is usually because it is all wrong. We do have instincts, though we rarely use them.

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