Spring 2016

Letters

A Word From Our Readers
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AN UNQUENCHABLE THIRST?

Thank you for “Not a Drop to Drink” by Michael Blanding, about the work of hydrologist Jay Famiglietti (Fall 2015). If “everything is worth considering” to assure Californians have enough water, it seems important to consider population. California’s Department of Finance says the state’s population will grow from 39 million in 2010 to 50 million in 2050. How will there be enough water for all those people?

A growing population will also speed up climate change. To avoid the ill effects of global warming, the average citizen will have to contribute just 7.4 pounds of CO2 per day for the next eighty-five years, and then stop emitting all CO2 and all greenhouse gases. Currently, every resident of California puts seventy-three pounds of CO2 into the air each day. Worldwide, that average is thirty-one pounds per day.

Hopefully, we will begin to talk about stabilizing world population so that we have a chance to provide everyone with water and to ensure a climate that is not warming too quickly.

Bruce Burdick, A06P
Carmichael, California


SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY

I was pleased to see an article on forest management (“The Hundred Acre Wood” by Phil Primack, A70) in the Fall 2015 issue. I admit that I expected to read another diatribe claiming irreparable harm done by timber harvesting. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the author is properly managing his forest land, including sustainable harvesting for timber stand improvement. Tree farmers across the United States are dedicated to sustainable forest management, such as properly timed timber harvests, wildlife habitat improvement, and careful protection of wetlands.

It is true that it can take forty, fifty, or more years to fully replace a mature tree, but not its carbon sequestration capability. That happens very quickly in northeast forests. Natural reforestation occurs rapidly as each harvested tree is replaced by hundreds or thousands of seedlings, the progeny of the many surrounding trees that remain. Eventually natural selection results in the death of most of the seedlings as the fittest, healthiest, and luckiest survive to maturity.

Tree farms such as Mr. Primack’s are doing more than their fair share to fight climate change. I maintain 155 acres of timberland and ten acres of Christmas trees in western Massachusetts. As the author points out, those trees absorb four to five hundred times the amount of CO2 necessary to offset the 10,000 or so miles that my wife and I drive each year. Even the trees that are culled to encourage more valuable timber are used to provide heat and wintertime domestic hot water for two homes, thus avoiding the burning of hundreds of gallons of fossil fuel and leaving the associated carbon sequestered deep underground. New England is blessed with an abundance of sustainable, renewable energy on its forested lands. We should be making better use of it.

Richard Spencer, E69
Washington, Massachusetts