by Suzanne Hauser and C Howard Diaz
When Heather arrived at the lodge, introductions were underway. Counselor Barry and the rest of the team were telling their background. Heather thought most of the counselors looked young, maybe only 17 or 20 years old. Their job consisted of looking out for the kids and making sure no one got into trouble. Then there were teachers from all over the world.
Heather found a spot to sit next to Jason. “I thought we were getting away from teachers,” Jason kidded as Heather squeezed in. She didn’t notice Jonny sitting on Jason’s other side until she giggled loudly at his joke and caused everyone to turn and stare. Heather felt the flush in her face, she sat quickly to try to shrink behind Jason’s jacket.
There was another group of adults that were scientists, “That guy looks a hundred years old,” Jason said about Dr. Whitley who was handling the introductions. “I don’t want to go hiking with him.”
Heather stifled a giggle. “Me neither,” she added.
Dr. Whitley was the director of Camp K-Bee. As if reading their mind, said, “I know I may look a little old to you children, but I have been doing research in these forests for years and years. I study the silva or types of trees of this area. I know I look old, working outdoors can do that to you, but I can assure you I am solid as a horse. My hope is to pass on to you what I have learned these many years so we can continue to learn about and enjoy all of our great nation’s forest lands. As members of Club K-Bee, you are probably familiar with the debates and sometimes even quarrels about the use, or as some people think, misuse, of our forests. I want to assure you right here and now, that our forests are doing just fine, better in fact, than ever before. And we must all learn about and do what we can so our forests can to continue to thrive.” Dr. Whitley made his point with a slap on the table.
“Tomorrow will be our first day exploring the forest,” Dr. Whitley continued, “so before we set out, lets go over what exactly makes a forest.”
Jonny’s hand shot into the air. “A forest is a thick growth of trees and underbrush covering an extensive tract of land.”
Heather passed a questioning look toward Jason, they both noticed Jonny talked as though she were reading from a dictionary.
“Very good, that’s a good description. Does anyone else have an opinion?”
A boy with bright red hair stood up on his chair. “I think the forest is just a bunch of trees and dead wood.”
The audience giggled.
“O.K.” Dr. Whitley said, “Fine. Anyone else?”
Slowly, Heather stood up “I feel the forest is a beautiful haven for wild creatures. It is there they can live free from man and survive as they should.” As she sat down, Heather couldn’t believe what she had said. She hadn’t known she felt so passionately about trees and animals. She felt a little embarrassed, but pleased that she’d had the courage to speak up.
“O.K. good.” Dr. Whitley continued. “These are all wonderful ideas and you are all right. The forest has many faces. It is a beautiful place and should be protected from careless fires and destruction. But on the other hand, trees should be removed before they become “dead wood,” as it was so beautifully said. That’s what we’re here to experience. The forest as a natural resource to be enjoyed and harvested for all.
Getting back to dead wood,” Dr. Whitley grinned, “what are some different things that come from the forest?”
Heather listened as shouts flew from the audience. Houses. Paper. Pencils. Clocks. Fences. Chairs. Bookcases. Doors. Ping pong tables. Boxes. Someone even said a coffin. But soon the shouting subsided.
“You kids have some great ideas. But what about Kleenex, and toilet tissue. There’s fruits and nuts. Soil additives, art pens, easels, milk cartons, printing ink, telephone books; all types of books, sleighs, confetti, bowling alley lanes, skis, photographic film, piano keys, cleaning compounds, barrels, popsicle sticks and what about oxygen?” Dr. Whitley finally took a breath. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the very air we breath. In fact, a 100 foot tree can absorb or use up to 8000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and through photosynthesis, turn it into 6000 pounds of oxygen. I read a list once composed of over 400 items that come from the forest. Amazing isn’t it? Every day all day, we use products that come from our forests. What we’re going to do over the next few days is to get to know the forest and how we use it in our lives everyday.”
“As I mentioned before, trees are one of our natural resources and what makes them even more special, is that they are a renewable natural resource. Does anyone know what that means?”
Jonny was up before anyone else had a chance. “Renew means to make new or as if new again. And natural resources are those actual and potential forms of wealth supplied by nature such as coal, oil, and water power.”
Heather saw by Dr. Whitley’s eyes, he was impressed. “That’s very good, Jonny. Do you have a dictionary there or something?” he asked her.
“No sir,” Jonny said proudly. “I have a photographic memory. That means I can remember things I read, word for word. When I’m out of books, I look through the dictionary.” With a smirk of satisfaction on her face, Jonny looked at Heather and sat down.
“Jonny’s answer is basically correct, but lets see if I can make it a little easier for you all to understand. A renewable natural resource is something, such as trees, that we can use to benefit man, and replace to use over and over again. We do this by cutting down trees and replanting seedlings in their place. Since 1940 we have actually increased the number of trees growing in America. We have done this by planting more trees than we harvest.”
“What does that mean?” someone asked.
“Let me put it this way. Think of a farmer and his field of wheat. Picture it there fully grown, the golden stocks swaying in the wind.” Dr. Whitley swayed his arms above his head. “Then along comes the wheat cutting machine and gone are the amber waves of grain.” The children giggled. “The grain is sent off to become bread and other grain products, the field is then prepared and planted again.”
“In the forest, it’s pretty much the same,” Dr. Whitley explained. “Mature trees are cut down and seedlings or baby trees are planted in their place. Also, the stumps left from the cut trees will continue to grow. This way we can make sure that we will always have forest to provide our needed products. We call this process harvesting.”
“There are different methods of harvesting. Up until recently, the most common mode was clear cutting. Clear cutting involves taking a specific area of forest and cutting nearly all trees living there. Environmental groups have trouble with this method because it cuts all trees within the area regardless of size. However, clear cutting is the most cost effective method of tree harvesting. Unfortunately, many logging companies have agreed to discontinue clear cutting due to the bad publicity it gets. Instead, they use another type of harvesting called selective cutting. Just as the name says, this method means cutting only specific trees within a defined area. Trees are chosen by the size or kind of tree. However, selective cutting does not necessarily help control disease or insect infestation as well as clear cutting. So there are pros and cons of each type of harvesting and only time will tell which will be used most often in years to come.”
Heather, Jason and Jonny sat together over dinner.
“I can’t believe all the things that are made from wood or that come from a tree,” Heather said as she sprinkled cinnamon on her apple sauce.
“Did you know cinnamon is made from the bark of a laurel tree?” Jonny asked with her mouth full of bread. “And other barks are used for different kinds of medicine.”
“Wow, you sure know a lot of stuff Jonny.” Jason smiled.
“But trees are so beautiful,” Heather complained. “Why do we have to cut them down? I don’t see why we don’t use other materials instead of trees, like metal or plastic,” she asked.
Counselor Barry was seated at their table. “That’s a very good point, Heather,” Counselor Barry said. “Remember how we talked about trees being a renewable resource? Well, plastic, cement and even steel are resources that are non-renewable. It took millions of years for materials to be turned into special materials in the earth that we must use to make metals. Their supplies are limited, and once it has been taken out of mines or oil wells, that’s all there is, there’s no way to make more.”
“What about recycling?” some one asked.
“Recycling is good practice, for those goods that we consume, or use up quickly, but much of the material we use, say for building a house or a factory, is supposed to last a long time. Wood alternatives like steel and cement are used in a lot of building, but not as much as the amount of wood we use We would have to really increase the amounts of these other products to reach the level that we use wood.”
“Another thing to consider,” a teacher added, “is that wood substitutes take more energy to work with.”
“I read somewhere, that some parts of a tree are turned into steam to actually be used in the mills to make electricity to work the machinery,” the boy with bright red hair said.
“That is true,” Barry agreed. “With the wood harvested today, there is hardly any wasted wood at all. A mill is basically a wood factory. All the parts of the trees harvested are used for different purposes, bark, roots, leaves and all. In fact, over the years, we have been able to get more wood from each tree. This means that the amount of wood that we can get from a 100 foot tree is even greater today than we could get from a 100 foot tree a few years ago. But lets save that discussion for later in the week when we go visit a local saw mill. For now, lets everyone hit the sack. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.”
Heather walked back to the tent, Rey Lin and Maria in tow. They were just getting into their sleeping bags when Jonny arrived. “Cute pajamas, Heather.” Jonny teased. Did your mom buy them for you? I guess she didn’t know that when you’re camping you’re supposed to sleep in your clothes.”
Heather tried to ignore her, but found she had to say something. “Cut it out Jonny. Why are you so mean to me? I’m sorry the counselor took your bunk, but it’s not my fault. I have been trying to be nice to you, letting you eat with Jason and me and everything. You should be grateful.”
“Grateful?,” Jonny huffed. “Jason is the one who asked me to sit with him. You’re just jealous because he likes me better.”
“That’s not true. Why should I care who he likes and doesn’t like.” As she said this, Heather knew it was not true. She did like Jason and she was angry he gave so much attention to Jonny. She was angrier still at herself for even caring.
“Heather is jealous, Heather is jealous,” Jonny sang as she pranced around Heather’s cot.
“Why don’t you just shut up.” Heather held her hands in fists tightly by her sides. “If you already know so much about everything, why did you get to come to this camp anyway?”
Jonny stopped dancing and stood face to face with Heather. “Well it’s clear you didn’t get picked on beauty,” Jonny said meanly.
Heather tried to back away, but was too close to her bunk. “Well if lack of beauty has anything to do with it, we can see you were probably chosen for being the ugliest,” Heather barked. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she was sorry. She saw pain in Jonny’s eyes as they locked onto hers. But Jonny didn’t take any time to recover she simply shook her head and stepped back.
“You’re right, we weren’t chosen for our looks,” Jonny admitted. “We were chosen on our IQ. You know, not everyone who belongs to Club K-Bee gets to come to camp. If we have one thing in common, it’s that we’re all smart.”
Heather decided to stop this conversation and climbed into her sleeping bag. She didn’t know what she had done to make the snotty local girl hate her. She just hoped tomorrow would be a better day.