Using Trees to Build a Better World – Forbes

Written by Robert Rapier

I worked in Hawaii for five years for a man who owned plantation forests. Inevitably, I ran into people who complained when it was time to harvest these forests. They simply didn’t distinguish between tree farming and clear-cutting of old growth forests. To them, cutting down trees was bad. Period.

I thought of this last week when I watched Michael Moore’s new documentary Planet of the Humans. The film has some environmentalists agitated because they charge that there is a lot of misinformation in the film.

As an aside, I agree that there are a lot of things wrong with the film, but the fact that Gasland’s writer and director Josh Fox is trying to get the film banned because — in his own words — it is “riddled with falsehoods and misinformation”, is textbook irony. As fellow Forbes contributor Michael Shellenberger correctly notes, Gasland itself is riddled with falsehoods and misinformation.

But I digress. Planet of the Humans is extremely critical of using biomass like trees to produce power. They treat the idea of burning trees for power as an environmental abomination.

Certainly, the burning of trees can be bad, but one can’t treat that as a universal truth. You wouldn’t make a blanket statement that all drugs are bad, just because some people abuse drugs.

Trees can cycle subsoil nutrients up into the topsoil. If you plant trees on marginal land, grow them, harvest them, and then replant them — you can actually improve the soil quality of that marginal land over time. So I flatly reject the blanket characterization that cutting down trees — even if they are going to be used to produce power — is always bad.

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