“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.” Rachel Carson’s words are heartbreaking to this resident of a Candler neighborhood surrounded by a small but lush forest being taken down for development. How many people have suffered this? And how many other beings have been impacted, i.e., harmed, as well?
I’ve read about studies that show that it’s good for us to live next to a forest, and I believe it’s not only good for our physical health. It is soothing and inspirational. Groves of big trees are often likened to cathedrals. Big “mother trees,” as professor of forest ecology Suzanne Simard calls them, are connected to and nourish other trees in the forest. Trees share.
Humans could learn from this. Instead of leveling the woods in a property planned for development, a percentage of trees could be saved, especially mature trees that would help newly planted trees and others thrive. It is good to plant trees, but it is at least as good to save the grown-up ones. Yes, it would be more expensive to build around trees, but maybe developers could absorb a loss to benefit the residents of their new development and neighboring ones like the one where I live. I wish it were a law.
I am not an economist, but I think that few people would argue that many of us are disgusted with the rich getting richer. Too many wealthy people seem to have succumbed to greed, and I’ve heard that many wealthy people from all over the country are looking into buying land here. Instead of seeing this only as “good for business” and an investment opportunity for our welfare, why don’t we plan to save some of the beauty they are coming here for?
I’m talking about the contentious Z word — just enough zoning to save a reasonable number of trees. You can still cut trees on a piece of land you want to sell, but you have to save a few trees. No clear-cutting! What a difference that would make in the world — right here. John Sawhill, who was an economist, said, “A society is defined not only by what it creates but by what it refuses to destroy.”
In ancient times in Ireland, trees were venerated and protected. Severe penalties were given to callous tree cutters. Even Ireland’s first written language, ogham, was largely based on trees. Gratitude for trees exists around the world. Don’t we who live in beautiful Western North Carolina still have some of that feeling?
I do not hold public office and am not a politician. I believe that our elected representatives who feel as I do need our support to be able to speak truth to power. We need to speak up, too. That’s how change happens. When I see the animals fleeing our neighboring woods, when I hear the scream of the chainsaws, and when I hear and feel the thud of so many trees all around hitting the forest floor, I’ll feel a little better if I know that others want change as well and are working for it in their own ways.
A related branch of this topic concerns our national forests. Those who don’t have woods in their neighborhood know that they can go to our national forests for recreation and peace or adventure. Once again, I have to say that it is often the old, big trees that excite us the most and that nurture the other trees. Many of those are in our old-growth forests. We are blessed with the Pisgah and Nantahala forests here, but we are under the tyranny of the U.S. Forest Service.
Despite an outpouring of public response against logging our forests, especially old growth, the Forest Service is once again including this logging in its plans. It announced its final plan Feb.17. Members of The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, the Southern Environmental Law Center, MountainTrue and Defenders of Wildlife have spoken against this plan. According to the Old-Growth Forest Network, less than 5% of old-growth forests remain in the West, and less than 1% in the East.
We are destroying a valuable legacy for our children and the rest of the world. When I visited the sequoias at Kings Canyon in California, I met people from around the world. At the Angel Oak near Charleston, S.C., I saw cars with plates from around the country. Our amazing biological diversity here is outstanding in our country and should not be squandered. These mountain forests are indeed special. We need to protect them. Please join us in whatever way you can: writing, talking to people, protesting, working with the above-mentioned groups. Use your creativity for something this important. Aldo Leopold said, “I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.”
— Carol Diamond
Carol Diamond has lived in Western North Carolina for over 25 years and is a longtime advocate for forest preservation.