“It’s not like it grows on trees” – actually..!

Musing on https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stronger-than-steel-able-to-stop-a-speeding-bullet-mdash-it-rsquo-s-super-wood/

When people say “it’s not like it grows on trees” I always cringe about how much *does* literally grow on trees yet goes unnoticed, underutilized, and unappreciated. I think whether by our wise choices or lucky last minute adaptations, that can change and be of massive benefit to us and our surrounding creatures of all kinds locally and afar.

This reminds me of a critique against a vision I find beautiful – a vision of widespread forest gardens ‘in every backyard’ so to speak. The critic’s point – and they’re a permaculture-style farmer with shared hopes for that vision – is that people in modern western society don’t exercise or realize uses for the vast majority of products and benefits we can get from forest gardens, therefore the value of the forest garden diminishes to the point where people choose to have lawns instead.

Fair point. Here in NY I don’t know anyone who uses local trees for clothes, paper, or chemicals – except for people living in structures incompatible with local building codes, but they’re a precious few set of outkasts. There are rare cases of trees used as food and medicine, and thankfully local wood does get a decent amount of use as fuel or in construction. But why don’t we use trees for more chemicals, clothes, or even simply for more food, medicine, fuel, fodder, construction material, and … fun? There’s been “cheaper” alternatives for some time – will that remain the case, or how long will it last? Perhaps new technology like that described in this article will return wood to the “cheaper” alternative, or perhaps what’s currently cheaper will become (and/or appear) more costly.

Times are changing, with economics and ecology experiencing disruptions we cannot fully foresee. What we can count on is that we’ll benefit from having resilience – increasingly a buzzword in environmental work, and for good reason – as it ensures we can ‘weather any storm’ and potentially even thrive in the face of changes. How do we get resilience? I got two answers for you: trees and diversity. I’d be happy to discuss either with ya – please comment if ya got some thoughts to share on the subject.

One reply

  1. coviller says:

    The 5 F’s provided by forests: food, fiber, fodder, fuel, ..fun! There’s whole categories more of benefits (e.g. regulating affects including but not limited to air and water temperature mitigation), but the 5 F’s is a nice rule of thumb 😉

What do you think?