Sujato's thought of the day: on forests

Since the English invaded Australia, we have cut down enough forest to cover France, Germany, and Spain combined. Perhaps that’s enough?


It’s estimated that there’s about 134 million hectares of forest remaining in Australia, which is about half of its original scope. That’s roughly similar to the total land mass of France, Germany, and Spain. I say this because I think people don’t really grok how big Australia is. It is very big!

All these figures are rubbery, of course, because it’s hard to define and estimate, and because we’re dealing with degrees of degradation. What is not unclear, however, is that it is continuing. Deforestation is a major contribution to CO2 emissions. Worse, the data used by the Federal government to claim that it has reduced emissions is almost entirely based on unreliable deforestation data; when the more reliable data used by the Queensland government is applied, the emissions reductions vanish.


Have you met Capitalism? :rofl::pray:


I have! He wore a nice suit, and we had a touching conversation. It turns out, all he ever really wanted was the approval of his parents. Failing that, he decided to just burn the whole planet down instead.


Usually I go to this forum for my nerdy Pali stuff, :smiley: but couldn’t help be reminded of these lyrics by a band I used to adore, Pain of Salvation. The song I was reminded of, Iter Impius, is sung by Mr. Money (i.e. Capitalism). He, wearing his Armani, “woke up to a world devoid of forests and trees” where “there is no one left” so he just “rules the ruins”.

An earlier song, Dea Pecuniae (= Goddess Money), has this great speech:

“I raise my glass to all of you who really believe that I get paid for my big responsibility. To all of you who think that my lifestyle does not affect the environment… or the poverty. (Well, maybe not more than marginally anyway.) … And I raise my glass, to those of you who give their piece of the cake for free, for me to throw in the face of democracy. For those who help making solidarity ideologically untrendy, and charity individualistically idiotic.”

Anyway… not sure why I shared all that. I blame the quarantine confinement! (Soon I’ll be released, though.)


In case of Brazil, I bet the destruction is two or threfold! :man_shrugging::man_facepalming:

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All I want to do is live in a simple hut in the forest (with a dog) and go on alms round, but I worry that there will be no such forests available and that the forest monasteries that exist will be covered with wifi and marble.


I mean, it sounds exactly like the business plan of the Peter Thiels of the world.

Dr Sonter, a research fellow who specialises in the management and conservation of landscapes, is conducting projects in Brazil and Australia, among other places.

She told Fact Check: “If it’s purely an exercise to compare rates of vegetation clearing between these countries, I think the results speak for themselves. Despite having less remaining woody vegetation, Queensland clears vegetation almost twice as fast as Brazil clears the Amazon forests.”

In Thailand, the forest monasteries are often the only forest left. One consolation is, globally, a major factor protecting forests is that there are a small population of people who live there and care and protect them.


In the US at least, it’s mostly no longer direct human intervention that’s destroying forests - it’s wildfire. One of the great examples of a runaway mechanism for climate change.

Is that the case in Australia yet?

Of course, deforestation is only half of the equation. There’s also afforestation, in which China is the world leader, largely through a policy I think is so stupidly obvious I’m amazed it works and yet isn’t universal - there’s a law that requires every student over age 11 to plant one tree a year. And, by and large, most everyone follows it, and enough trees survive to make a difference.

I don’t think so: fire is a big one, of course, but Australian forests are designed for fire. So as long as it isn’t excessive (too hot or too frequent), fires are essential.

I think the general global tendency is that in most developed countries, deforestation is in decline or reverse, while it grows in poorer countries. Which on the one hand might be interpreted to mean that economic growth can go together with reduced deforestation; or else it simply means that the rich have exported their deforestation to the poor.

Australia is an exception to this. It’s a huge governance problem. As it happens, a new report came out just today:

Okay, that’s cool. Newly planted trees are no substitute for old growth forest, though. It seems to me a bit like the recycling thing. Get people to go and plant a tree, which makes them feel good; but it obscures the fact that, until recently, trees covered the whole planet without having to be planted by people. They’re pretty good at self-planting!

Better to not chop them down in the first place.

Recently I was thrilled by Amazõnia, a wonderful exhibition of
Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian photographer who spent 6 years
in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. He gave the floor to 4 chiefs
of different indigenous people. One chieftain remembered
Jair Bolsonaro paying him a visit:

I’m going to help you all, I’ll create jobs for you.

but the chieftain replied:

We don’t want your jobs, we want fish swimming in our rivers again.

© Sebastião Salgado

Precisely. Not Amazon, but the Amazon is the world’s priority.


Some interesting nuance to this is that new growth forests actually absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, per unit land, than old growth forests. Older trees absorb more CO2 per tree, but each old tree shades out more land. However, you’re absolutely right that one acre of old growth forest lost can’t be made up for in one acre of new growth forest planted - but the reason is the released carbon that was previously stored up gets released through mechanisms such as soil erosion. The best of both worlds would of course be to keep all of the old growth forests, and plant a bunch of new ones.

Also interesting to note is that afforestation can be used for positive local climate change - for example, the Shandong Ecological Afforestation Project. Part of the afforestation is meant to just recover from past ecological catastrophes in Shandong, but part of it is afforestation of highly saline coastal soils that just never before supported this much plant life, making those areas much more life-supporting. There is also mixed success in the Great Green Walls of Africa and China - both have successfully reclaimed land, and suffered loss of planted trees. Currently, the Sahara and Gobi are net expanding year over year, but it is conceivable the war may one day be won.

Overall, China’s afforestation isn’t so much greenwashing as reactionary. Both to manmade disasters (like the “Great Cutting” of the Great Leap Forward), and natural ones (like the expansion of the Gobi Desert).

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My Simple Thought: Instead of cutting those who give us air to breathe and sustain our atmosphere, sit in their shade and effectively Meditate into Nirvana! Om.