Sunday July 11, 2021
Back in May, Lorna Beecroft posted a photo on her Facebook page of a giant log being trucked down a Vancouver Island highway. It went viral.
“I have never honestly in my life seen a tree that big on a truck ever,” Beecroft said.
The log was almost ten feet – three metres – in diameter. It filled the entire highway lane, all by itself.
Here in the Okanagan, I see lots of logging trucks go by. At a guess, they carry up to 100 trees per load, some of them so small it would be hard to cut a single 2x4 out of them.
But this was just one log. A single giant spruce.
And therein lies a lesson in economics.
Some of you who are older may remember a rule of thumb: your car should cost about a third of your annual income, your house about three times your annual income.
In Vancouver or the Central Okanagan, a single-family residence would cost about 40 times the annual income of a service worker in the hospitality industry, earning around minimum wage.
Our grandparents ran their finances on a simple motto: “You gotta put it in before you can take it out.” I doubt if my wife’s parents, living in a small town in the Kootenays, went into debt for anything. Ever. Pop Anderson paid cash.
My generation had a different motto: “If you take it out, you gotta pay it back.” Joan and I did take mortgages for our homes. But we paid our debts off as quickly as possible.
Debt was something to avoid.
Younger generations today seem to operate on credit, not savings. Judging by advertising, credit ratings matter more than money in the bank.
Their motto might be, “If you can get it, take it.”
That attitude is anathema to their more fiscally conservative parents.
But in fact, the younger generation is simply living out the principle that a capitalist economy has embodied for several centuries.
Take one example – oil. No one, but no one, operates an oil well on the assumption that you gotta put it in the ground before you can take it out. Ditto for the second motto: no one even thinks about putting oil back into the ground to restore the product pumped out.
Rather, the guiding principle has been the credit motto: “If you can get it, take it.”
And that is perhaps nowhere as visibly obvious as in our forest practices. Once upon a time, trees the size of Beecroft’s were everywhere. My photo gallery includes historic pictures of trees so big that a dozen loggers could dance a jig on top of a single stump.
Now the so-called “tree huggers” – a misnomer, because no one can reach their arms around an old-growth trunk -- are desperately trying to save a few remaining old-growth stands up and down the coast.
Because we have never lived up to the motto we proclaim for our finances: ”If you take it out, you gotta pay it back.”
We’ve taken out the biggest, the best, the strongest – and not one of those old-growth forests has been replaced.
Admittedly, the B.C. government introduced regulations to protect a limited number of “exceptionally large trees.” Cut one of those trees, and you could face a fine of up to $100,000. Pocket change for a corporate giant.
Governments and logging companies brag about their reforestation programs. The millions of seedlings they have planted. New practices to mitigate the worst effects of clear cutting.
But even if all those efforts pay off – and I’m skeptical -- not one of those re-planting efforts will ever become an old-growth forest.
After 50 to 80 years, all those new trees will be cut down, sawn up, chipped and shipped before they ever have time to develop the intricate network of roots and rhizomes that makes an old-growth forest a massive living entity.
Environment scientist Nicholas Gottlieb notes that the trees in old-growth forests are far older than either the province or country and “are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. The massive trees sequester similarly massive amounts of carbon, support thriving networks of organisms from fungi, microbes and plants to vertebrates…”
Old-growth forests should be a model of interdependence for us. Instead, we treat them as a pool of potential capital, a line of credit we can draw on indefinitely.
To turn an old maxim upside down, “Trees do not grow on money.”
Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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“Thanks Jim for raising awareness of these clinics and for becoming a donor,” Larry Joose wrote about last week’s column on giving plasma. “I have been a whole blood donor for many years but never thought about donating plasma. I will need to research that. Thankful for all the donors that helped Joan.”
I’m amazed and moved by the dedication of several writers for giving blood regularly. Brenda Dewonck, for example, wrote, “I too am signed up for a plasma donation this week. It will be donation #60 with whole blood and platelets included. It does feel good to do this and I hope to be able to do it as much as possible.”
Brenda lost her husband to cancer less than three weeks before writing this.
Another writer had made 135 donations.
I hadn’t known that Bob Rollwagen was National Past President, Leukemia Lymphoma Society Canada. He wrote, “Blood and blasma is what makes the body work. It is my belief that research into these two substances is fundamental to future success fighting all the cancers. Advances over the past twenty years are all related to the research being done and Canada is a leader, contributing beyond our weight to cures. Positive contributions such as yours contribute greatly to the daily battle by informing the general public what the battle is.”
And there were letters from people who had also benefitted from transfusions.
Eileen Wttewaall: “I’ve just returned from three weeks in Victoria General Hospital where I was given needed blood transfusions because of very low hemoglobin. Each time I thanked verbally and in thought, those who gave the blood. I also thanked my grandson, 25, who gives plasma every two weeks in a Vancouver clinic. Many thanks to all who give their time and gift of blood for life for others.”
I’m not the only one who has been unable to donate blood, for various reasons.
David Gilchrist and Mary Collins also had malaria as children.
Heather Sandilands: “I can't donate blood either, due to low iron. So this might be the opportunity for me too. I will certainly look around for a plasma clinic.” (Canadian Blood Services plans to open a new plasma clinic in Winnipeg in 2022.)
Steve Roney: Appreciated your column on plasma donation. I have never been able to give blood, because I have always been on medications that apparently make my blood shoddy goods.”
Ditto for Cliff Boldt: “I used to donate blood up to four times a year. Open heart surgery left me with a metal valve which needs blood thinners. Now I am not allowed to donate. Good for you for donating.”
And finally, this story from Randy Hall, who remembered his first blood donation – in the U.S., where donors can get paid for donating. “Though I regularly give blood to the Red Cross now, my first blood donation was not so honorable.
“I was a sophomore in college. I was broke. So my roommate, who was also broke, suggested that we drive over to Bristol, Tennessee to give blood. He heard that we could get $15 for a pint -- not bad money in 1972.
“I should have known it was not going to end well. Driving around a sharp curve in the mountains, we faced a horse running wide-open toward us on the road -- a beautiful white horse. It simply ran by us on the left and kept going. Strange. Then my car started sputtering. It died right in front of a service station where they actually had mechanics. Dead alternator. I could only get it repaired because I had an Exxon gas card. $40!
“So we drove on to Bristol and found the blood donation service building. They asked us, ‘You are 21, aren't you?’
“Jim and I looked at each other and said something unprintable. We said many other unprintable things on the way back to Appalachian State University.”
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