Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gravity is just a theory

Forget evolution, the real scientific theory that needs to go is the theory of gravity. And...if we can just get rid of the cockamamie notion that things slide down hill...our lives will be better. Why? Because then we can clearcut the trees off steep hillsides with people living at the bottom.

Sadly, even in the little towns that depend on logging, gravity does work and people suffer when clearcut hillsides tumble downhill in a rainstorm.

We've been through this debate a few times in the northwest, we're doing it again this winter, and we're going to keep at it until we get it right.

We argued about gravity in southern Oregon in the 1990s, when I was living outside of Roseburg and a nearby landslide off of a clearcut slope killed 4 people. Tragically, one of those killed had actually pleaded with the state of Oregon not to allow Champion International to clearcut the steep slope above his house. It got logged, and then a few years later the clearcut hillside slid downhill and killed the Moons and two friends in their house. Their children escaped.

Now we're arguing again over landslides and floods in Oregon and Washington. The Washington mess devastated the lowlands and closed Interstate 5 for days. I know, because I detoured around the mess just after the flood. Floodplain development was partly to blame, along with ugly landslides off of clearcut hillsides.

The Oregon mess was not as big, but this time the blame lies with Oregon State University, affectionately known as Timber State University by some locals. And a revealing paperwork trail has ignited debate over the public role of the Universisty and it's close links to the timber industry. OSU owned the land, planned the logging, and is now taking the heat. And some OSU Forestry professors would probably like to repeal the law of gravity to get out of this pickle.

When will we learn about logging, landslides and floods? How long will we persist in denying gravity? Probably about as long as some people will argue against evolution and climate change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The West Coast is just behind the evolutionary curve on this. West Virginia discovered the solution to this problem a few years ago when it just decided to harvest the truly ancient forests beneath the ground (i.e. coal deposits), by simply removing the entire mountaintops to provide easier access. Unfortunately, this too led to horrendous toxic runoff, erosion, impacts on towns, and BTW, loss of some beautiful mountaintops.