Modern sustainability evolved from forest management of the 18th century, and its ancient roots go back even further. Could it help with today’s climate crisis and lumber shortage?
I’ve spent probably way too much time thinking about burning things. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that we need more wood.
Between 2004 and 2007 we planted seven acres of young saplings on our site, which have now grown into some pretty hefty trees providing numerous benefits – constructional timber, firewood, food, wildlife habitat, wind protection and recreation among them.
From the Neolithic to the beginning of the twentieth century, coppiced woodlands, pollarded trees, and hedgerows provided people with a sustainable supply of energy, materials, and food.
Quality not quantity is what is needed: good husbandry, not the willy-nilly broadcasting of trees on random hectares. Good husbandry will come naturally when fossil fuels are eliminated, and artificial fertilisers a thing of the past, for it is then that people will fully appreciate the true value of land.
What we’re finding, and what European scientists are finally figuring out, is that human beings are meant to be a keystone species. And a keystone species is a species that if you take it out, the whole thing unravels.
As positive as it all sounds, the £65,000 investment is a lot. Are the trees worth it? They definitely are, says Briggs, and because trees grow on only half of the farm, he can make a direct comparison. The arable yields per hectare are the same and the trees only take up 8% of the available space. If he can press the apples into juice, the trees are as profitable as wheat or oats would be on the same acreage.
Therefore, to anyone who’s contemplating planting trees on a piece of land because they have specific goals for it, as we did – wind protection, privacy, nitrogen fixation, firewood and timber, amenity value, fruit and nuts, even wildlife habitat or carbon sequestration at a stretch – I say don’t be put off by the permaculture purists who insist on natural regeneration. Go for it.
Waterford farmer and self-sufficiency expert John Seymour called coppicing and pollarding “the most fundamental of woodland crafts.”
The Coastal Douglas fir biogeoclimatic zone that dominates the landscape on the east coast of Vancouver Island is the smallest and most at-risk zone in B.C., with the highest number of species and ecosystems at risk, many of which are ranked globally as imperiled or critically imperiled.
The Forestry Commission estimates that 47% of England’s woodlands are unmanaged. If you like to think of woods as wild places and flinch at the idea of a tree being felled, then you might consider this a good thing. But woodlands, at least in this country, need management.
In the Vrancea Mountains of Romania, the Eastern Carpathians, people in dozens of villages have used community-based institutions known as obştea to manage forest commons since the sixteenth century.1 The original sense of the word, coming from Slavonic, is “togetherness,” and it underlines the participatory essence of the institution.