Wednesday, January 19, 2011

practical theory

"In theory, there should be no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is."
-- Yogi Berra

I've always been intrigued by where stuff comes from and how it gets to us, but making a bookshelf from a tree inspired me to be a lot more vocal about it. After all, this is process is probably the most basic reason why the forestry industry exists in the first place. Your job, as a forester, is to grow trees that can become wood that can become furniture. It's a "value-added" process. But somewhere along the way, we became fragmented. The loggers who actually do the dangerous work of bringing those tall trees down to the ground as logs are somehow lower class, uneducated. It's your job, as the diploma-bedecked forester, to teach them the errors of their ways when necessary. And as a forester, it's also your job to keep your nose within your own lane. You don't worry about market conditions or sustainable consumer appetites. All you worry about, even when you talk about so-called "sustainable" forestry, is making sure the plot of ground you're responsible for puts out the same amount of quality wood as it did when you inherited it.

Doesn't that seem awfully short-sighted for a profession whose rotation plans often need to span into the hundreds of years?

And why are basic skills, like chainsaw felling, skidding, loading, and temporary road construction, relegated to optional classes like "Timber Harvesting Lab," rather than the centerpiece of the curriculum? What good does it do to come up with lengthy growth-ring histories and advanced statistical analysis of soil chemistry if you have no idea what applications that data may have to actual people, who are interested in utilizing actual trees?

How and why did our university agriculture education system -- the very system that spawned the land-grants that formed many of these universities in the first place -- get so far away from actually growing food and timber? When did it, like the media and government Farm Bills, become so married to the corporate model of production? Is there any place where traditional skills are still being passed from one generation to the next?

No comments:

Post a Comment