In the early 1980's, forestry death was brought to the attention of the public for the first time. Dire reports predicting there would not be a single tree left standing in Europe took turns with appeasements and playing down the problem.
Nowadays, we are able to look at several studies done by governments and forestry departments. We know about the regional dramatic repercussions, for example in the 'Erz- and Riesengebirge', where whole mountain ranges are bare of trees and are turning into steppe. We also registered tree diseases of particular types such as elm, oak and spruce to name just a few.
On the other hand, most of our forests have survived the catastrophic storms of 1990 (violent storms Vivian and Wiebke) quite well. Forest managers and farmers have learnt much and nowadays, monocultures are rarely being planted anymore in middle Europe.
Is the decline of forest still an issue today? Our technically advanced world, where all decision-making is done by the logical left brain, has tried to capture the phenomena of forest dieback with environmental impact studies, percentages and statistics. However, this is a big mistake which is about as erroneous as the planting of monocultures 20, 50, and 100 years ago.
Imagine your child has measles. The doctor does nothing else but counts all the red spots on your child's skin and records it in a highly bureaucratic way. Would you trust this doctor? It is a similar situation with our forest. Statistics alone will not do the trick.
Every tree is an amazing living being which connects heaven to earth. The plant and animal communities which live in and around trees constitute the forest. The question is, when is a tree 'well'? What is the foundation of our wellbeing? The answer is that we are feeling well and healthy when we are being loved and able to pass this love on to others. It is well known that people who speak to and touch their plants lovingly have the most beautiful flowers. We can apply this to our forests too and love our woods. We too will be healthier and feel better.
How is 'loving the forest' supposed to look like in our daily life? To love something means to fully integrate it into one's life. The human being or the object of our love must not leave or be banned from our life. And this is where our forests have suffered most ill. Polluted air and bark beetles are only symptoms manifesting what has already happened in the hearts of humanity.
Think about the large herds of bison in the northern American prairies. As long as the local Native Americans loved, appreciated and respectfully treated the animals, both the Indians and the bison were well. This balance lasted over hundreds of years. The bison meat nourished the Indians and the skins gave them a roof over their head. The European settlers brought along their own way of life and didn't understand the bison the way Indians did. Because the bison didn't have a place in the hearts of the white population, it did not take long for the animals to become extinct.
It's not the bark beetle which threatens our forests; it is us who do not cherish it. Insects are as much a part of the forest community like birds, fox or deer are. The real cause for the death of our trees is the idea that we do not need them anymore in our daily lives. Once we believe this, that's when we start neglecting the forest.
It becomes more dangerous for the forest, when our children grow up in houses made of toxic materials and plastic instead of wooden furniture and toys. They don't get to see and feel the magic and beauty of wood grain, wood floors, toys and musical instruments. Young girls and boys nowadays grow up playing on synthetic flooring instead of warm, wooden surfaces. Children surrounded by reinforced concrete instead will find it difficult to connect with wood later in their lives.
Do you remember a wooden object from your childhood, one which you have touched often? Do you remember the floor boards or furniture in your bedroom which you were looking at every day when falling asleep? All the faces and animals and other imaginative beings you saw carved in its knotholes and grain? Subconsciously we experience our surrounding and mother nature in this manner every day.
Can we afford to go without them?
When we perceive precious wood in our forests as a cheap resource instead of a divine gift, our forests are in danger. We start clear cutting large areas for profit instead of harvesting mature trees to make space for young ones and give them their chance of developing. Once the wood has been treated, it is toxic and cannot be returned to nature to turn into mulch and provide nutrients for the next generation.
To protect our environment means to accept and use it in a sensible way. Let us provide a healthy environment for our forests and make the best use of this amazing resource. Once wood plays a valuable role in people's lives again and we embrace wood as a divine gift, the forests will be treated as they should be.
Timber treated with insecticides and fungicides for outdoor use are often used in sensitive areas such as playgrounds and vegetable patches.
There are two different ways of wood treatment:
1) From a biological building POV, boric salts are harmless but rarely used. This treatment doesn't make much sense for outdoors because the salts are washed out fairly quickly and are only protective for a short time.
2) Synthetic chemicals such as insecticides and fungicides on their own or in combination with salts. One variation, which often is thought of harmless, is the treatment with chromium salts. However, trivalent chromium is suspected to be a carcinogenic substance. Synthetic preservatives turn wood into toxic waste and pose severe health threats to humans, animals, and the environment.
This has triggered reactions from residents and city councils. More and more communities are refusing to use wood treated with poisonous heavy metals for their playgrounds and this is indeed a great development. Their only reason for not doing so is that the expected cost of disposing of this toxic wood would be too high. It is a wonder why their first and utmost concern wouldn't be the health of the children.
The interesting bit of this story is that in the outdoors, untreated wood from slow-growing trees such as alpine Larch and Oak will actually outlast treated pine or spruce. We arrive at the same goal without the use of preservatives.
SHARKS & WOOD PRESERVATION
A shark attack in the Mediterranean summer season would receive sensational reports by the press. They would discuss at length the danger of sharks for the umpteenth time and many people would instinctively perceive it as a warning without hesitation.
Why? Because human history and advancement in biology research has taught us which animals we must be aware of and what kind of threat each one poses to us (ex. parasites, snakes, jellyfish, sharks, etc.). Therefore we have adjusted to this which is now 'common knowledge' not only mentally and physically but also instinctively and emotionally with natural defense reflexes/responses which pass on to the next generation and stay clear of such dangers.
Human behaviour studies show that it takes a very long time for new protective reactions/reflexes to anchor in our DNA and a few generations are not enough. Rotten meat for example, has always existed and for generations and we are protected by our genetics. We have inherited a natural dislike for spoiled food through senses such as taste, smell and sight. No one will have a desire to eat rotten meat and it is given that a butcher who sells rotten meat in his shop be punished by law.
However, only in the past century have we been confronted with an incredible amount of new unknown dangers, one of which are toxins/chemicals.
The negative effects from Hiroshima to Chernobyl, the chemical accidents from Seveso and Bhopal to the court cases regarding wood preservatives can be rationalized, however our reflexes and instincts can't adjust as quickly.
This inability to swiftly adjust our instinctive and emotional reactions to new dangers turns out to be a disadvantage for us. Timber preservatives which endanger our health and environment however are available in hardware and trade shops even though these products are causing diseases and sometimes even death to children and adults.
Only intellectually have we analyzed and registered this information and we know that the production, use and disposal of these products are very harmful to our environment.
We are aware that by burning treated wood, dioxins and either harmful substances are released into the atmosphere which cause health and environmental problems. Regardless, unbelievable amounts of synthetic and chemical adhesives and preservatives are being used every year. The difference between toxic preservatives and rotten meat is that we have been exposed to modern man-made toxins/ chemical poisons only for a relatively short time.
This might be one of the many explanations to why synthetic chemicals are still a part of wood production. However, it is not necessary to use preservatives, chipboard or plywood panels anywhere in the home particularly in this century when wood engineering has advanced. None of the buildings that are hundreds or thousands of years old have been chemically 'preserved'. How simple, timeless and beautiful was our ancestors' ways of building? The laminated products of our modern chemical industry and plywood manufacturers cannot compare in ways that truly matter - our health.
What does 'chemically treated wood' really mean?
In the past few centuries, laminates, glues and synthetic preservatives have turned a natural building material into toxic waste.
A large percentage of modern wood products, furniture, building and flooring will be classified and treated as toxic waste. The same chemicals which turn wood into a toxic waste also diminish the quality of our lives and lead to questions like: "Why do I get headaches at home?", "Why can't I breathe properly?" or, "Why do I keep coughing?"
The three main uses are:
Chemical technology: adhesives, glues and laminate
Surface treatment: laminates and paints
Preservatives: insecticides and fungicides.
After decades of unconcerned use and patronizing talk by the industry, we now see some treatments (with active ingredients like PCP, Lindan and adhesives containing Formaldehyde) recognized and declared as dangerous!
This only happened after many people had suffered terrible damage to their health and now Formaldehyde has been replaced by another highly questionable synthetic resin which has Isocyanate on its list of ingredients. It is hard to believe to see the devil being chased out by the deuce.
Clever sales techniques praise Formaldehyde-free furniture, wall and floor panels as healthy, natural and eco-friendly. But they forget to mention their adhesives contain Isocyanate.
Here is a quote from a personal talk I had with the head chemist of a famous natural paint manufacturer, Mr. Erwin Schusser: "If you compare the toxicity of Isocyanate and Formaldehyde, you will find Isocyanates are definitely not less toxic...!"
Properties of Isocyanates:
Isocyanates are highly reactive chemicals. They are used in large quantities for the production of polyurethanes.
The use of polyurethane varies widely (mattresses, soft foam materials, sealants, insulation, adhesives, finishes and others).
The toxicity of polyurethane mainly stems from the original and unchanged chemical compound Isocyanate. Isocyanates are constantly being exuded into the surrounding atmosphere and have a highly irritating effect on mucus membranes, particularly the respiratory system. Allergic reactions like coughs, asthma and other breathing difficulties and headaches often are triggered.
Isocyanates are highly active chemicals which react with skin and mucus membranes. They are even more toxic than Formaldehyde. The replacement used in chipboard is Diphenylmeth and Isocyanate which forms Diaminodiphenylmethane. This compound is strongly suspected to cause cancer.
In a fire situation, Polyurethane is a death trap. Poisonous gases like Hydrogen Cyanide (Alder/Mackwitz: Eco tricks and Swindles, page 274).
Isocyanates are part of a particularly dangerous group of chemicals. Even small concentrations of fumes or dust (produced by normal wear and tear of these materials) in a room can cause serious health damage. Irritation of the mucus membranes to nose, bronchus and lungs leads to shortness of breath and chest pain. Under prolonged exposure spasmodic coughs and bronchitis are the result. Isocyanides cause allergic reactions, e.g., Isocyanate asthma, a lung disease (Katalyse Umweltgruppe: das Oekologische Heimwerkerbuch; Rohwohlt, S 152).
Substances which are suspected to be carcinogenic (aromatic amine amino acids) can be found in Isocyanate products and also are being released by them. Even if it were possible to swiftly warn people about the dangers posed by Isocyanates and the chemical compound would be removed, more and more medical cases of Isocyanates toxicity would become public.
Precious time is passing by and in the meantime the industry is looking for new chemicals to replace the current ones. The wounds inflicted on nature by the production of synthetic products have not been factored in yet. Toxic treatments create toxic waste which cannot be put back into nature without causing more damage. It makes sense to use untreated wood for floors and cladding inside and outside. No one needs to take the risk in the first place.
Why are we following the dead-end road sign of the petrochemical industry? Why do we resolve simple wood-working steps with a sorcerer's apprentice mentality? Why would we inflict more damage to our health and environment?
If you wanted to prevent any chemical experiments on yourself, you should develop a healthy curiosity when buying wooden products. Prefer manufacturers and dealers who are open to disclosure of their product treatments and constituents. Someone who can prove the product is harmless to your health and the environment.
Holz100 Canada Inc.