Thursday, December 11, 2008

‘Pristine’ is a dirty word

I was talking with a friend recently about the state of our forests and it occurred to me that one word is a symptom (and maybe a cause) of a lot of wrongheaded thinking.

That word is “pristine.”

You hear it a lot in reference to the Sisters Country, often in commentary from “Environmentalists” opposing cutting trees or developing some part of the forest.

Especially if there’s the possibility of making a dollar involved. Dirty money versus “pristine” forests.

There’s nothing pristine about the forests of the Sisters Country. They’ve been meddled with for over a century, with logging, fire suppression, road-building, riding, hiking, pot growing — virtually every kind of human activity.

Pretending that the forests are “pristine” only makes it more difficult to enact the kind of human intervention that is needed now to restore the health of those forests.

The forests need massive intervention. Thinning, burning, cleanup — aggressive management, this time focused on forest health as the top priority.

And somebody has to make money somehow so that the work can be sustained over the long haul.

The old paradigm of conflict between “lock it up” and “get the cut out” is no longer valid. We need new paradigms. First, we have to retire the word “pristine.” Pristine ended long ago. Human industrial civilization is here in force; the choice is whether our impact is negative or positive.

I care a lot more about whether the forest is healthy than if it is “pristine.” And healthy is going to take a lot of work.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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