Thursday, December 18, 2014

Activate Project

Flag #2 Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Location: Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA.

Off the coast of Washington, the Olympic Peninsula diverges from the mainland and slips into the Pacific Ocean – surrounding itself on three sides by the cold northern waters. On the western edge, shielded by the Olympic Mountains is a strip of temperate rain forest, the only of its kind in the continental U.S. As you wander through these woods you will meet Maple trees, Alders, Spruce and Cottonwood covered in blankets of moss and fern. Their shapes resemble tree gnomes and hobbits – the type of lure we only know through fairytales. There was a time when much of the land was covered in these forests and human life was established on its fringes. The medicines, food, resources, and refuge these forests offered was taken in small amounts and only as needed.

Today almost all of original forests in the U.S. have been logged or otherwise disturbed. Less than 1% are left in the east and 5% in the west. The majority of Americans will never get to see an old-growth forest. There is no national organization or government agency working to protect the remaining ancient forests nor to preserve recovering forests.

The forests on the Olympic Peninsula are protected as part of the Olympic National Park, but both nationally and globally, old growth forests and forest ecosystems are under threat. Through awareness campaigns the public has become somewhat familiar with the importance of standing up against deforestation, especially the global campaign to protect the world’s tropical rain forests.

The important piece for us to understand is that an old growth forest is very valuable. In fact, it’s irreplaceable. Like an elder, it carries knowledge from earlier eras. It has learned from years of life on this planet how to live on this planet. Imagine the internet 10 years ago. Now imagine it in 100 years. What the internet will be able to provide to humans in 100 years is unfathomable. It will likely reflect back to us billions of our expressions, desires, communications – our dreams, our stories, our facts and information plus a multitude of resources we can’t even imagine at this time. This is what an old growth forest holds beneath its shaded canopy. There is complex knowledge held by the vast network of mycelium under the soil that has been developing for centuries as each leaf, branch, bark and forest creature has made its way to the forest floor and returned to the soil – to the humus from which it came. The trees, shrubs, ferns, flowers, mushrooms, insects, mammals and other creatures have evolved together to a state of perfect balance after years of practice.

There is so much to be learned from old growth ecosystems. The conservation of these forests needs a collective voice and in time that voice needs to get louder. 

A place to add your voice is among those who are part of  The Old-Growth Forest Network, an organization created in 2007 by Joan Maloof, Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University in Maryland. The organization’s mission is to identify and help protect one forest in each county of the U.S. where forests could grow (approximately 2,370 counties out of 3,140) and let people know where they were located. “In this way, I believe, we could help stop the destruction of what old-growth remained, help some forests recover, and enable more Americans to experience an old forest.

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