The image of the forest often appears as a romantic scene on a postcard, stately trees, serene, timeless and unchanging. This picture is appealing but it is incorrect. For the forest is a dynamic, ever-changing place where the struggle for survival continues cycles of growth and regrowth. Trees are essential to our civilization. Not just helpful and enjoyable, but necessary. Look around and think what life today might be without wood.
Many of our buildings are wooden construction and frequently we use wood decoratively as paneling or trim. We function in a world of wooden objects—cabinetry, shelving, furniture, workbenches and containers. Timber provides twenty percent of America’s nonfuel that we welcome, paper packaging, paper cartons, boxes, photographic film, and books, newspapers, labels, instructions, bubble-gum cards—made from wood. Each of us uses an average of 560 pounds of paper every year. Our forest provides 5000 different building products, more than 100,000 kinds of paper products and many more miscellaneous wood products. “Knock on wood” that there are such wood products as clothespins, hockey sticks and tissues in our lives.
The Department of Commerce, in 1977, estimated that the number of industries connected with wood products exceeded 33,000. More than 6,000 companies manufacture paper and allied products from wood fiber. About two-thirds of all wood is cellulose, woody, tube-like fibers; the rest is lignin, a tough substance which holds the cells together. From the cellulose, paper, cellophane, and by various chemical processes, plastics, lacquers, alcohol, imitation leather, food proteins, etc. are produced. Lignin is used to make plastic for electrical equipment, combs and utensil handles. Our involvement with wood has resulted in experimenting with lignocellulosic resources as raw materials for chemical feedstocks. (Glasser, Wolfgang G.
Forest Products Journal
, March, 1981). Lumber production waste—bark, sawdust, shavings, etc.—are being used as fuel by the mills, being sold for agricultural use or for paper making. Our forest products industry has a total annual product value of over 68 billion dollars.
The forest and their product industries provide employment for many people in a range of jobs. This resource can provide an opportunity to discuss outdoor careers in general. Students usually enjoy being in the open and given their feeling of being “cooped up” in school, examination of outdoor careers, at least with their imagination, might be beneficial. Awareness of outdoor occupations, especially for urban students, may expand future choices and goals. Besides a list of outdoor jobs which can be obtained from the Department of Labor’s
Occupational Outlook Handbook
, two concepts should be covered—differences and disadvantages.
Careers that take workers outdoors differ considerably. Some require a great deal of physical activity, while others call for only a little. Certain jobs deal with nature, soil, plants or animals, while others involve work on things. The job locations can vary from cities to isolated forests and so can the time spent completing the job. Educational and training requirements will differ accordingly. Without a high school diploma, outdoor jobs may be found in construction, the post office, merchant marine, on farms and in resort areas. Craft workers such as carpenters and masons need training through an apprenticeship program. With a high school degree, work may be found in city service departments, and in many other industries—transportation, maintenance and utilities among them. College degree careers, often combine field activities and indoor work; the jobs include civil engineers, life scientists, forest managers and various supervisors in industry.
The question that students should seriously consider is “How much do I really like being outside?” A crisp, clear autumn day or a warm spring morning are one thought. However, people who work outdoors need to cope with nature in all forms, temperatures reaching the 90’s as well as sleet and snow. Because of the weather, work may be delayed and pay may be lost as a result. The building trades, for example, are highly seasonal and the economy can make work intermittent.
It is hard for people to realize that trees do not grow by themselves in cities. Keeping trees alive must be our job in urban settings. Nature affects the trees with viruses, bacteria and insects. But people with their road salts, paving roots, lawnmower scars, auto pollution and vandal carvings, can easily kill the trees. Many cities do not replace trees that fall because of cost and other budget restrictions. In fact, park departments are often the first to suffer funding cuts. Indeed forty-four percent of all U.S. cities have no organized tree program in existence. Apathy dates back to 1784 when insurance companies would not insure
with trees in front.
Tree growers are breeding trees that can better stand urban stress; however price and availability are ranked over survival rate by city planters. Urban foresters are forced to choose trees of one type only although they are acceptable for urban settings. Imagine street after street with identical trees planted. If the chestnut tree had been the only U.S. tree, the blight that broke out in New York’s Brooklyn Botanical Garden with the importation of some oriental plants in 1904, would have left us treeless today. Because of the diversity of the forest, the disappearance of the chestnut is not noticed today. The mulberry tree upon which silk worms fed, allowed Connecticut to produce more silk than any other state until the blight of 1848. As the mulberry trees disappeared, so did the industry. The American elm which was hardy, tolerant of climate changes and soil variety, lived long and thus became a favorite tree for towns and cities to plant. Its demise left city centers barren because of the Dutch elm disease, accidentally brought from Europe on logs. Therefore, different varieties should be used; safety lies in diversity.
Planting trees according to survival ability first and cost next is most desirable and matching tree type to soil conditions is another consideration. Planting larger trees, ones that “look” like trees make people conscious of their presence and hopefully more careful. The idea of mixed plantings on city streets, using shorter tree species makes possible a tree in front of every house. At the same time, different species allow visual contrast and once life-cycles are established, removal of some will not disrupt the over-all affect, Urban dwellers share the benefits of their city trees and must accept responsibility for their environment.
The urban dweller can relate to that hot July day when the cool shade of a large tree can be a luxury. The cooling is caused by evaporation; the tree gives off about a hundred gallons of water from its leaves a day. With the cool air under the tree and the warm air around it, the air moves upward making a breeze. This combined effect of evaporation and air movement can make the shade of a tree almost 20° F cooler than beyond the foliage.
Students can relate their outdoors experience—as caddies, newspaper carriers or from recreation—in order to access the possibility of an outdoor occupation. For those with the interest, talent and qualifications, an outdoor career is available.
Some jobs within the forest itself are the forest engineer who plans out roads, surveys and makes maps or the cat-skinner who operates a skidder which drags logs to loading areas. Foresters, wardens, high-climbers, fallers and crane operators are all specialists performing important functions within the forest. Without going into the forest, people can have careers dealing with trees; for example, nurseryman, landscape architect or arborist. The wood products and lumber industries provide many more unthought of occupations; over a million people work in the solid wood products industry directly. Knowledge of the role of growers, harvesters and users can raise our appreciation of trees in terms of economical value and as consumers, we should become more aware of the essential place trees have regarding our quality of life.
Those early Connecticut hills that the early settlers traveled over have been changed; they and their successors marked the environment and their influence is
visible today. of the forest held true for them and continues today, delivering raw materials worth about 3.5 billion dollars, millions of jobs, single family homes, of which 80 percent are wooden, and thousands of products from medicines to toys. (“Green America” American Forest Institute, 1976). The forest has helped to shape, build and sustain our urban centers Packaging and containers allow for systems to distribute products to population centers. From watersheds that nourish our cities and basic shelter to breakfast cereals, the forest continues to support urban existence.
Interestingly there are 70 million acres of forest spread out in bits and pieces in our American cities. Trees are recognized by most people as an asset to the city. New Haveners planted a single row of buttonwood and elm trees around the public square, the Green, in 1759. But it was James Hillhouse, a great promoter of New Haven and public servant, who will always be remembered as the one who planted the elms and laid out Grove Street Cemetery. As early as 1790, the city proposed to preserve its older trees for shade and ornament. Hillhouse and David Austin worked on planting the numerous elm trees which earned the name of “The Elm City” for New Haven in the post-Civil War era. During this period, the canker worms in the 1870’s and then were damaged by the English sparrows, newly introduced by Mayor Henry Lewis. The elm leaf beetle increased the damage towards the century’s end and finally the Dutch elm disease began to kill the city’s great elms. In 1909, a campaign to save the elms and to beautify the city was conducted by George D. Seymour. His efforts resulted in the appointment of a superintendent of trees, George A. Cromie, in March 1911. Under Cromie’s direction, old damaged trees were removed and 10,000 new ones were planted between 1911 and 1921 including maples, sycamores, lindens and of course, elms.
Trees can be considered as energy savers with conscious and suburban dwellers. A deciduous tree on the south side of a house will provide shade in summer. When winter comes, the bare branches will admit the warming
row of conifers on the north and west sides of the house will serve as a winter windbreaker. By planting low growing evergreens next to the foundation, a wall of natural insulation is formed. Proper plantings can help the cost of cooling and heating, thus saving money and the use of other energy forms.
Urban dwellers in viewing their trees should appreciate more fully the extremely wide range of benefits that flow from our forests—its products as well as its environment—and of their own urban trees. Our urban parks are a place of recreation and provide a moment away from the glass and masonry of the city. The trees along our streets can inspire us to remember that the tree is a symbol of our heritage, not the skyscraper. The beauty of our trees is a natural counterpoint to our urban, manmade environment. The more complex our cities become, the more removed we become from the influence of natural events and the more we tend to seek out the natural world. Our forest, its trees, is a major element is our “web of life.”