Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Plant a tree this spring

Last night, one of the largest group of students I've worked with gathered in my studio to begin their woodworking journey. That might sound hokey, but that is the truth, and their enthusiasm was contagious. We went through a amazing amount of information, and later, they finally got some one-on-one time with wood and glue.

Does it get any better?

When I got home at the end of the night, I was running over the class in my head, thinking about how much material we used and that I'd need to prep more wood for the new class starting in just two days.

Wood, wood, wood... our lumber industry seems so antiseptic and tidy - you go to the lumberyard and pick out a board. If you're lucky, it's straightlined, relatively flat, and ready to use. But wood has changed so much over the years, do people even realize that?

Not to get all "old timer" on you, but when I was in high school, the lumber was had available was amazing - mahogany boards that were often 15" wide, with stunning color and grain figure.

Now? Narrower boards with dull color.

Think about it - how long does it take to grow a tree large enough to produce boards to use for furniture making? Are the lumber companies replacing what they cut, or is sustainability just not possible? When you read in the news about logging and deforestation, are you outraged, or do you just want that nice new bedroom set, regardless of the impact on the environment?

I've been trying to lessen the impact of the woodworking classes I teach on the environment - from the materials we use, to the finishes we apply. Students are encouraged to donate items to the shop - everything from old rags for applying finishes to carpet scraps to protect our work while sanding. Many have been much more generous - donating tools and time and woods that they no longer need. It all helps, and lessens our dependency on purchasing these items.

All of this is on my mind because I recently saw this video. The footage is stunning, showing one of the last uncontacted tribes living in Brazil, unaware of the rest of the world. But that could be about to change, with lumber companies moving in, hoping to get their hands on all that virgin timber. In this day and age of iPods, cell phones and Facebook, how is it even possible that tribes like this still exist? Amazing.

What will become of them? Is it possible that the tribe and their land will be protected, or will some large lumber conglomerate move in and take what they want? Who will step up and protect them?

What can you do? That's a good question, and I don't have an answer for it. But I do know this - we have to start replenishing this planet if we care at all about its survival. Use less plastic products. Buy less junk. Recycle. Plant a tree this spring, when you're putting your garden in the ground. Get together with your neighbors and clean up your block.

And if you're a woodworker, consider the impact of your work on the environment. Can you find a use for your sawdust? Do your wood scraps end up in the trash, or could a neighbor use them? I know that I've started donating scrap to various places around town - everything from kindling for woodstoves to sending boxes of interesting wood cut-offs to other artists for use in their work.

It's a start.


Jen Yu said...

YOU are awesome. And we're going to be planting more trees in our yard this year. xo

Stacey said...

The video you posted made me cry. I am so disturbed by the importance of what think we need vs. what is available - and its sustainability. I'm glad you are repurposing your scrap. I hope people continue to expand their recycling awareness. Thanks Jamie.