Hypocrisy Merit Badge

A month ago I wrote here about Stephen Colbert and his Alpha Dog of the Week award to the Boy Scouts of America for Chain Saw Scouting. He finished the award with, “… [the Boy Scouts] will have to start a fire using the apparent friction between what they say and what they do.”

I commented at ColbertNation.com with “A wag of my finger for confusing preservation with conservation…We should not simplistically fob off the providing of our country’s wood needs to other countries with low environmental standards and call it conservation. Unless, it’s a good idea to log elsewhere (or mine or the substitutes) and the deforestation of the Amazon is a good thing?” [see the Illusion of Preservation (PDF)]

Heidi Siegelbaum of Marketplace’s The Greenwash Brigade blog has also wagged her finger at the BSA, “How about reverence for nature as opposed to cash?” Hmm, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices.” – William James
I left a comment. In case they don’t print it, here it is:

Heidi, I completely agree that BSA’s exclusion of gays, atheists, agnostics, and United Way funding runs counter to many of the virtues to which the Boy Scouts aspire. You are right to point out these inconsistencies.

However, as a Registered Professional Forester in California, I take issue with “Intensive timber harvests and development= 34,000 acres of potential conservation learning… poof!… gone.”

Logging does not equal deforestation. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.” (World Forest Resource Assessment in 2000, On Definitions Of Forest And Forest Change) The Boy Scouts explicitly said they replanted the areas following logging. There is no “long-term or permanent loss of forest cover,” where that is the case.

I am especially troubled with the conflation of cause and effect that their “Myopic and hateful exclusion [of gays, atheists, agnostics, and United Way funding]” inevitably “leads to clearcutting forests, yet insistence that they are a good land steward.”

Really? Being anti-gay, anti-atheist, anti-agnostic makes one want to clearcut? And in turn, harvesting trees somehow shows the Boy Scouts organization to be poor land stewards?

Along with being an RPF in California, I am an agnostic who I voted for California’s Proposition 8, so, I take issue with your Manichean depiction that clearcutting, a legitimate silvicultural practice, as evil. Trade-offs and gray areas are part of life. As noted, I have my differences with the Boy Scouts, but we should give them credit for wrestling with forest stewardship, rather than simply perpetuating the illusion that wood comes from the lumber yard. Greenpeace co-founder, Patrick Moore points out, “Wood is the most renewable and sustainable of the major building materials. On all measures comparing the environmental effects of common building materials, wood has the least impact on total energy use, greenhouse gases, air and water pollution, solid waste and ecological resource use.”

I take issue with your statement that state forest regulatory agencies provide “wholly insufficient monitoring and enforcement.” According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer story, “Trees are a renewable resource, said some [Scouting spokespersons], adding that their councils practice only sustainable forestry. … Forestry records uphold such claims in many cases.” So, “many cases” of properly practicing sustainable forestry adds up to “wholly insufficient?” That dozen of their councils “have implemented long-range management plans with assistance from professional foresters to help better manage [their] woodlands,” adds up to “wholly insufficient?”

We should not fob off providing this country’s wood needs to other countries with low environmental standards and call it conservation. That just makes us hypocrites. In fact, I’d say the hypocrisy is on those wagging their fingers at the Boy Scouts:

If we are going to continue using more and more wood, then we have a moral responsibility to grow more wood to meet that demand. By not striving to grow our own wood, we inevitably shift that burden to other nations and regions not able to do it as responsibly and sustainably as we do. That makes us a nation of hypocrites, preaching the virtues of environmental protection while encouraging other nations to disregard those virtues for our benefit. – Jess D. Daniels, Ph.D.

There are a couple peer-reviewed papers (PDF) on the subject of ignoring where our wood comes from and what using substitutes means to our environment, I highly recommend them, they are very readable and not dense at all. The first is from the Journal of Biogeography is “The Illusion Of Preservation: A Global Environmental Argument For The Local Production Of Natural Resources” by researchers at Harvard University and the second is “American Forest Policy-Global Ethical Tradeoffs” written by Donna L. Dekker-Robertson and William J. Libby, Printed in BioScience, Volume 48 No. 6.

Thank you for allowing me to comment.

I would hope that you also comment here in favor of America taking responsibility for providing the wood our country’s needs. Logging is no more the prelude to deforestation than the sunrise is. Deforestation is the conversion of forest to another land use.

Under some erroneous definitions this is deforestation

This is not deforestation

This conversion to another use is what deforestation looks like.

This is what deforestation looks like.


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