Monday, March 16, 2020

Where Have All the Trees Gone?

With the recent oddly strange shortage of toilet paper, I decided to look into shortages from our past.

In the 1500s, England began to find itself short of firewood. A population explosion, bigger cities, paper products, and construction, the forests of England were being decimated. The growth of the forest couldn’t keep up with the demand.

The shortage hit the poor hard. Unlike the landed gentry, they didn’t have vast expanses of land to cut for their own firewood, and as the shortage became more dire, the price of wood rose faster than any other commodity of the time. No firewood meant no fire, no food or warmth in the brutally cold winder months.

The poor had two options: wait for an answer or freeze to death.

Because of this hopeless situation, many decided to take their chances in the colonies. While England’s forests were being depleted, the situation in America was the complete opposite. Early settlers were met with an seemingly unlimited supply of trees available for the taking.

England did find a solution as they soon resorted to coal for heat and cooking.

A similar situation hit Germany in the 18th century. Wood became so scarce that, in winter, fence posts, steps and all kinds of wooden objects, that were expendable in the short term, were burned as firewood. 

The recent deluge of fires in Australia aren’t the first. The Black Friday bushfires of 1939 saw brushfires burning for the whole summer and ash fell as far away as New Zealand. Approximately three-quarters of Victoria was affected by the disaster and the entire county was badly damaged by fires and extreme heat. As of November, 2011, the event was one of the worst recorded bushfires in Australia and the third most deadly. Over 4,900,000 acres of land in Victoria, and 71 people were killed, and several towns were completely obliterated. The Royal Commission stated that “it appeared the whole State was alight on Friday, 13 January 1939.”

Such a sad commentary that brought tears to my eyes when I read it, especially given the recent devastation from brushfires in Australia. 

Other historical tidbits that I dug up revealed decimated forests in France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, all across the world all across time. Seems that trees and our various usage for them (fire for warmth and cooking, building, paper products, just to name a few) is one of our most prized possessions. And while they are renewable, they don’t grow overnight, do they?

And, remember the recent toilet paper shortage? 

Yep, TP comes from trees. Go figure!

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to believe the bare shelves in our stores, even here in rural Maine, where you'd expect people to be a bit more levelheaded about the way life works! But I hope that people soon learn how to share. Regarding the precious commodity of trees, all of New England has experienced the phenomenon of clearcutting, and then having to wait forty years or more for reforestation to occur. Thanks for the post!