How many trees were felled to make the magazine you hold? I'll give you a clue: a lot--a shocking number. The actual total, along with an examination of how those trees became the paper this article is printed on, is in Don Webster's "The Paper Chase," along with the answers to some other questions raised in this issue: Where did the cedar shingles on your roof come from? What happened to much of the longleaf pine forest that once covered 93 million acres of the Southeast?
Ten years ago this issue of Audubon might have caused all of us to push the magazine away in disgust and give up using wood products faster than you can say "tofu burger." But arboreal veganism isn't practical (try as you might, who doesn't handle paper or sit on wooden chairs?).
Over the past decade there has been a realization that while we would prefer to leave our forests uncut, it is far better to replace them with tree plantations than with golf courses or housing developments. And that the products we might use in place of wood--including recycled plastic--take their own environmental toll. Even the Internet, which many tout as a way to reduce the demand for paper, has actually increased both paper use and energy consumption.
What has changed is the way we log trees. There are still plenty of bad timber practices, as Ted Kerasote points out in "The Future of Our Forests," but there are also relatively good ones, and some that are getting better. The purpose of this issue is not to ask you to stop using wood products or to read this magazine only online. What we want is for you to think about where the wood you use comes from, and to try to choose wisely.
There are alternatives. Let the companies you buy wood products from know that you care how trees are logged. As an organization, Audubon tries to buy products made in a sustainable way, and few wood products are purchased without knowing where they came from.
Of course, you may still want to throw this magazine away in disgust (if so, please recycle it). Or ask why we don't use more recycled content (we're looking into satisfactory alternatives). But if you care enough to have read this far, if you care enough to ask these questions, then you need Audubon.
This issue of Audubon is the last one I will edit. It is a magazine I dearly love. It has won many awards (most recently, we are proud finalists for four Utne Reader Alternative Press Awards, in general excellence, among others. More important, Audubon has changed many lives--mine included. Yours, too, I hope.
© 2001 NASI