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Commentary :: Environment
Beacon Hill's Biomess
28 Sep 2009
The future is now, only instead of freaked-out masses leveling the forest for mere survival, it's government and industry proposing the same in order to save the planet! And, Beacon Hill is ground zero for this kind of thinking.
In ancient times some places we now know as vast arid deserts, or desert-like plains, were deeply forested and thrived with abundant wildlife. What happened? Human populations pushed the envelope too far. The human race has a distressing penchant for clear-cutting great stretches of forest to feed fires, build cities, sail fleets, graze herds, or do whatever. Making matters worse, we seem to have had little interest in replanting, or better yet, intelligently managing such forests. Some gruesome examples include the once <a href="http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/300.social_sciences/360.social_problems;>"Fertile Crescent"</a> in the Mideast; the ancient <a href="http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1980-05-01/Ecoscience-Th;>Mediterranean</a>;<a href="http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1103/Steber/Steber.html";>Haiti</a> in the Caribbean, but also in the more recent past, giant swaths of the <a href="http://duenos.net/images/alex/unep_extent-of-deforestation-in-borneo-195;>Amazon</a>.

Perhaps you've seen sci-fi films or read stories about the potential for such devastation in our own future here in North America. The images are appalling. They touch a deep chord in most who see or read about them, like a primal sort of pain. The loss of entire forests and the vision of resulting wastelands haunts us to the core; and well it should. Scientists and assorted experts have warned over the years that as the human population expands and fossil fuels diminish, desperate people will begin to clear-out the woods for fuel, leading to a kind of <a href="http://parkhowell.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/deforestation-tree-remo;nightmare deforestation</a> even worse than we've seen in the past. Well, guess what? The future is now, only instead of freaked-out masses leveling the forest for mere survival, it's government and industry proposing the same in order to save the planet! And, Beacon Hill is ground zero for this kind of thinking. As society begins to question the continued use of coal and oil in light of the oncoming climate crisis, the scramble for renewable forms of energy begins to take on more urgency.

Of course, we all know it's human nature to make mistakes when we're in a rush. As much as we seek to stem the course of the oncoming climate crisis, to prevent other nightmare scenarios, we'd be well advised to consider our moves before we create yet another disaster. Consider the present push for industrial-scale biomass. In Massachusetts alone, if all the projected industrial biomass incinerators were constructed, <a href="http://www.maforests.org/Impacts.htm";>studies show</a> our forests would soon be history. That's not very "renewable", is it? It seems a bit like madness to destroy the forest to save it. But, looking back in history, we are no stranger to madness, which by definition can mean doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.



Additional links on biomass incineration:

Forest Watch: Massachusetts Wood Supply: http://www.maforests.org/Wood.pdf
Biomess “Waste Wood” myth buster: http://www.risiinfo.com/technologyarchives/risi-wood-biomass-market-repo
Biomass issues: www.massenvironmentalenergy.org/

[d.o. is producer and co-host of The Enviro Show on WXOJ-LP and WMCB in Western Massachusetts]

This work is in the public domain
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