Pacific Lumber started its long history as an environmentally respectful company, however it has not continued that into this decade. The millions of acres of Redwoods that once densely covered the western land have been taken away for financial reward. Before selling, the company way was sustainability, now it is profitability. Because of the efforts of essentially one man, the business has over-harvested the supposed protected Redwood. It is not a simple answer as to why this has happened, nor is any explanation of environmental destruction. What people want often overrides the needs of the land, creating our society of selfishness and greed.
As Hardin points out in his article, people were not always so fast to put the needs of themselves in front of the land. Years ago, people depended on the land for survival, but in a more direct way then today. In “The Tragedy of the Commons,” it is explained that maximizing for the greatest good is what we are striving for. Maximize the population, maximize growth and maximize growth. Industrialization brought with it the belief that more is better, money is power, and status is how much you own. We do not live with the land and respect it as we should, we live off it, and it dies off us. To create the greatest wealth is what we are striving for as a whole, regardless of the impact to our land. To live with the land would mean less economic growth, less income, fewer cars, fewer mahogany desks and tables, basically, living with less.
Pacific Lumber once practiced sustainability with the Redwoods. Before one man allowed greed to get in the way of morality and values. The company only harvested as fast as the trees could grow back. They were in harmony with nature. One tree goes to the mill, one grows so it can be used some time in the future. They did not, as a company, focus on continual growth, expansion or profit. The company focused on its employees and the health and condition of the forest.
With the sale of the company, everything the company was respected for was lost. The new way of doing business meant cutting the trees faster and more efficiently to ensure the highest profit. Without regulation, Redwoods are still being cut that should have been protected many years ago. There have been attempts at regulation, but is that the way to stop environmental damage? Hardin points out: “Prohibition is easy to legislate; (though not necessarily easy to enforce)?” The same is true with the forests, how do we effectively enforce regulations? Politics play too big a role for most of us to know these answers. Lobbying in political venues by lumber and paper companies and financial tradeoffs create turmoil and corruption in trying to stop or even slow down the clearing of forests. A picture was taken of Bill Clinton and Hurwitz together in Houston, raising serious doubts about government and their role with business’s such as Pacific Lumber.
Regulation must start with our greatest problem, the population explosion. Without some control over what is an exponentially increasing epidemic, how can we slow the demand for any product, including Redwoods? Taxing is another step, by using the money raised by taxes on Redwood products, the government could invest in saving the forests. Appealing to a manufacturer to make an alternative out of more renewable resources is an immediate short-term change that could save trees other then Redwoods. With government help, an existing or new manufacturer could develop a product close to the properties of Redwood and sell it at a cheaper price.
Stopping the cutting of Redwoods will take more then simple regulation by government, a group that may or may not be ready to extend a hand to the environment. It will take extremists like the girl who is currently in the news because she is protesting by sit-in; sitting in a tree that is. On the NBC News, the young women said, in her own words, “doing all she knows how to make a difference and save some of this beautiful forest.” The loggers continue to cut all around her, putting her life in danger. The viscous cycle goes on, no matter that a fellow (apparently sane) human being is sitting in a tree in a desperate attempt to stop the cutting. The loggers must earn money, to make the company money, to make government money, and the cycle goes on.
The “Land Ethic,” according to Aldo Leopold, includes in the community: soils, waters, land, plants and animals. Today, if a person on the street were asked to define community, he or she would most likely answer: “a group of individuals or families residing in an area of a few blocks or miles.” Nothing to be said about the land, animals, trees or water that is so obviously a part of a community. We are in the eyes of many, conqueror of the land, therefore we are allowed to treat it as we choose.
Pacific Lumber in no way considers Redwoods to be part of their community. They can tell us, the outsiders, they only selectively cut around endangered animals and precious streams. If they really cared, they would not be cutting any of the last remaining natural wonders of our community. They seem to care about having a nice community for the employees to enjoy, but what about the animals and their community? We fail to consider living, breathing animals as part of our community. What if we changed the name of the Redwoods to Old Growth Humans? Surely, there would be some hesitation to cutting down 300 year-old humans!
Why have humans placed themselves at such a high level that not even the very land we live on is important enough to us to love and respect it? We would rather see one human being prosper then an entire forest of great diversity survive. Humans would rather see other humans make a dollar then make an environmental difference. Political leaders would sooner spend billions on defense then millions on the environment. The question remains, why did we evolve into mass-consuming, money hungry, greedy idiots?
The answer may be partially a result of our culture, childhood and education. Growing up I was taught by my elders, as I am sure many others were, that the most important thing is this world is to make money, no matter the expense to the environment. When I asked my father in younger years about the lake on the news or the business polluting a river in Maine, he would say: “Oh one company or one person won’t make a difference, it’s no big deal.” That is precisely the ignorance that has brought this world to an all time high in environmental damage, including the cutting and clearing away of Redwoods.
To illustrate the mindset of our community, consider the American Dream. We are taught indirectly that the dream is what we all should strive for in the U.S.- make as much money as possible, have 2 or 3 children and pollute and destroy the environment how you see fit. Watching the news a week ago I learned about the girl in the Redwoods, giving us hope that something will be done as a result of her extreme actions. That hope quickly vanished when Hurwitz was interviewed about the girl and the company in general. When asked about his position on the role of the company and the girl, he replied: “We will be careful to appreciate the interests of the girl and others like her, but business must go on and we are doing very well, despite her actions?we will continue to grow and expand, you know, it’s kind of the American Dream.” I could not believe my ears hearing this powerful man saying this childhood thought on national news.
It is scary to think how many people believe strongly, in the same manner as the owner of “Redwood destruction are us,” in the American Dream. Economic growth is what we care most about, second is human well being, and last on the list is the environment. A community or commons is not considered by most to include humans and the land. Humans are controllers of the land, we can do to it whatever we desire, no matter the impact to life other then ours. The only way to change this attitude is to educate starting at a very young age. Along with the basics of math, science and english, environmental classes should be included. The children will go home and tell their parents what they learned about the environment in class, encouraging the adults to change their ways as well. This approach is one of the ways we can guard against the clearing of forests, polluting streams, endangering animals and other environmental impacts; and in the process, creating people like Hurwitz.