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E-M:/ Deforestation, Dioxin, and No Commercial Logging! -Reply

Enviro-Mich message from "DAVE MERKEL" <48MERDAV@menasha.com>

Well the "enemy" has been monitoring these communications for some time (I am the director of technical and environmental departments for a paper company in Michigan, and I take my environmental responsibilities very seriously). I appreciate much of the work I see going on out there to help our environment. You may not be able to handle this thought, but some of that work is being done in the front line trenches of industry by people who are trying to make a difference from the inside out.  I think your hearts are in the right place, and I agree that more work is needed. Improving our environment can only be a good and right thing to do. Perhaps it is the least we can do. When I read the posting (reprinted below at bottom) however I had to draw the line and speak out. I am now on my bully pulpit.

The frank fact is that the statistics quoted by Murray on "Deforestation" are pure and simple fantasy. Let me elaborate. I invite anyone to do the math (ecological mass balance) and find that if what Murray said were true, our country would be a barren wasteland now, not in the future, but immediately. The demand for paper products (our country is hungry for them, from packaging, to writing papers - I agree Murray that we should criminilize the ridiculous junk mailings) could never be met. Also, if most of the paper produced came from trees and then went into a landfill, production would cease for over 50% of the paper production in our country immediately. The next time you went to get toilet paper, buy a TV (shipped in a recyclable box), blow your nose or start a wood campfire for your kids you would not be able to get what you wanted anywhere. In some segments of the paper industry (specifically packaging, my part of the industry) - the average, yes average recycling of paper produced is 70%. The only reason it is not higher is because that last thirty percent has wax, plastics and  other coatings on it which make it impossible to recycle. Our industry has major research going on now to figure out how to recycle that last thirty percent. Murray, your numbers are a phantasmagorical nightmare. I thank God you are wrong.

Writing paper, furniture, plywood for homes, paperboard for your cars dash, playing cards, photographic paper, not to mention 10,000 other types of wood products come to us as a renewable blessing from trees. Now think hard about this - for example, one major alternative for paper materials are plastics, synthetics, etc. most of which come from oil (a decidedly limited and certainly not renewable resource). What do you think happens during that plastic manufacturing process? What are the byproducts of their manufacture? More energy and chemicals use. Wether it be steel, plastics, or anything else that is "mined" only trees are our renewable and truly recyclable resource. They get their energy from the sun (free and zero pollution), they consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for animals to breath, emit water vapor to absorb heat from the sun, shelter us and other animals, and are magnificently beautiful, and at the peak of their life cycle (contrary to many peoples beliefs, trees do not live  forever) can produce the many beautiful things such as furniture etc. When the product is done, the carbon returns to the carbon cycle (if it is done right - I too have concerns over carbon wasting rather than returning it to the forest beds). Plastic either sits in landfills for a 1000 years, or beside the road, or requires massive input of energy to revitalize it into another product. Plastic also has a life - a number of times it can be recycled - but when it's life is over, it cannot be returned to the earth as paper and paper byproducts can. Plastics are a net carbon sink. I bet you don't hear the truth about that out there from the plastics pushers do you?

With regards to alternatives to wood, I agree there are some viable ones out there. We have done local studies on Kenaf for example, and if there were an available source in the north, we would be experimenting with it in our process. The facts are however that per acre, Kenaf and bagasse and other alternatives do not produce nearly the usable mass per acre as trees ( in present form), and would not be able to even remotely fiber our nation, especially if those harvestable cellulose alternatives were to replace farmland (already disappearing). In addition, some products can be made from the alternative cellulose sources, and many cannot. Like all things, the physical makeup and natural characteristics of the alternative fiber source is important to making the final products. If it works it does, if it does not, it doesn't. That cannot be forced by wishing it so.

Now, before anyone gets all upset, I, nor my company, believes that all trees should be cut down because they are recyclable and renewable (really all of us, since I assume none of you live in bark huts, eating berries, drinking rain water and riding your own small generator bike to power up and  log on to EnviroMich) We do not have a right to deforest the world, nor could it be done in our nation today if our legal process works right. Nor do I believe that old growth forests should all be cut down to prevent loss of the wood mass when it dies. My training is actually in biology (B.S. Biology 1985 Indiana University), and I know plenty about diversity, and the effects logging can have. If these old growth areas are managed correctly (basically left alone), and the other areas are replanted or regenerated, and allowed to go through full life cycles, then a sustainable forest-industry linkage is very doable. If you want to get scared, look at many of the foreign third world nations, where environmental agendas are absolutely last in line after a population that wants to grow and modernize. Someday they, like us, will see what that cost them, but only after they are living comfortably. 

One of the things people in this state fail to realize is that 50 - 100 years ago, this state had mostly been logged off. We built cities, and cradles to hold our babies, and burnt wood to keep from freezing to death, and cleared to make cropland to feed hungry mouths. Wether you agree or disagree that it should have happened is 100% immaterial. It may be tragic, but the fact is it happened, and now we have to go on. Many of the forests that you see today in Michigan, are either regeneration of hardwoods (most hardwood species in Michigan regenerate after cutting on their own), or plantings of softwoods. I have seen pictures of the Kellog Forest for example showing that 100 years ago that area was a barren wasteland being farmed into a dust bowl, with mud runoff choking the waters in that area. Today that area has been reforested and is gorgeous. Michigan is a much better place to live today than just a lifetime ago. Contrary to Murrays numbers, there are 30% more trees being planted each year in this country than are being cut down. The statistics are true for Michigan as well. Contact your forest service if you don't believe it. The paper industry would be slitting it's own throat if that were not the case. If, and the big question is if, a company and the citizens that consume products, are good stewards, are environmentally conscious, and do the right thing, and control or modify our appetites, we will all enjoy the majesty of forest lands forever. 

I know there are bad players out there, and they need to be brought to justice, but it is untrue that all industry are evil empire building cultists bent on raping and destroying a planet at all costs. After all, who is employed at companies? Who lives in the houses all over our country? Who consumes products in our world? Who works for EPA and MDEQ? Who posts on Enviro-Mich from their plastic computers powered by electricity? People of course. We all do. It is simply too easy to sit back and make someone nameless and faceless out there the enemy. Once they are depersonalized, it's easy to degrade them, to take away their dignity, to make money on them from the uninformed and unenlightened. I for one am not going to let that happen to me. Our country has pushed to have laws enacted that makes doing the right thing an incentive and a requirement. I think most people given the right information and backed by the right laws will make the right choices - gosh even corporate CEO's. I personally am proud of the work I have done at my company in the last 10 years. It is a better place environmentally by far today than it was before I came, and if I hire in good people, and we are smart, it will be even better when I am gone.

I invite your questions and comments.

David Merkel

Technical Manager
Paperboard Division
Menasha Corporation

~please note this is my own opinion, and does not necessarily represent the ideas and opinions of Menasha Corporation (I have to write that!)~

>>> <Murphwild1@aol.com> 06/20/99 09:30pm >>>
Enviro-Mich message from Murphwild1@aol.com


Notice (below) the increase of cosponsors of the NFPRA and especially the 
political support of U.S. Representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin and 

Ninety percent, yes 90%, of our public forests logged in the Northwoods go 
for paper products. The majority of these paper products end up in landfills. 
Species are being driven to extinction, and human quality of life degraded 
for junk mail, cardboard, and squeaky white chlorine bleached corporate 
letterhead, while the following non-wood fiber alternatives exist:

In Production:

bagasse (sugarcane residue)
cereal straw (wheat, rye, rice residues)
cotton linters/rags (crop residue)
flax (crop residue)
hemp (annual crop)
kenaf (annual crop)

In Development:

corn stover (corn residue)
elephant grass (perennial crop)
red fescue (perennial crop)
spartina (perennial crop)
switchgrass (perennial crop)
vetiver (perennial crop)

Current paper manufacturing processes in the Northwoods of Michigan, 
Wisconsin and Minnesota produce emmissions and effluent from pulp mills both 
locally and globally. These mills are currently not required to do 
Environmental Impact Statements for the areas in which they are deforesting 
(sourcing areas) and converting to plantations.

The use of chlorine to bleach pulp has been particularly indicted for its 
production of dioxin, an organochlorine, as a byproduct. Transported largely 
through the atmoshpere, dioxin, has in the last few decades become globally 
ubiquitous and increasingly concentrated in the food chain. 

In vertebrates, dioxion functions as an endocrine disrupter, playing havoc 
with the reproductive systems of species ranging from alligators to eagles to 
humans. The connection between deforestation and toxics is clear. You dont 
have one without the other.

Recently, Heartland Fibers, a Minnesota based pulp manufacturer, just 
recieved the necessary investment capital to begin construction of a 140,000 
ton/year corn stalk-based, chlorine-free pulp mill in Nebraska. It is a start.

Is the destruction of our last remaining native and recovering forests in 
Michigan worth a few more years of fiber? 

For more information contact:

Murray Dailey
Northwoods Wilderness Recovery

 Co-Sponsors of H.R. 1396, the National Forest Protection and
     Restoration Act as of June 11, 1999:

     1) Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
     2) Jim Leach (R-IA)
     3) Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
     4) Robert Andrews (D-NJ)
     5) Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
     6) Thomas Barrett (D-WI)
     7) David Bonior (D-MI)
     8) George Brown Jr. (D-CA)
     9) Michael Capuano (D-MA)
     10) Bill Clay (D-MO)
     11) John Conyers (D-MI)
     12) Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
     13) Julian Dixon (D-CA)
     14) Bob Filner (D-CA)
     15) Michael Forbes (R-NY)
     16) Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)
     17) Barney Frank (D-MA)
     18) Bob Franks (R-NJ)
     19) Luis Guiterrez (D-IL)
     20) Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
     21) Rush Holt (D-NJ)
     22) Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
     23) Jerry Kleczka (D-WI)
     24) Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
     25) Tom Lantos (D-CA)
     26) John B. Larson (D-CT)
     27) Barbara Lee (D-CA)
     28) John Lewis (D-GA)
     29) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
     30) Bill Luther (D-MN)
     31) Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
     32) Edward Markey (D-MA)
     33) Matthew Martinez (D-CA)
     34) Jim McDermott (D-WA)
     35) James McGovern (D-MA)
     36) Marty Meehan (D-MA)
     37) Carrie Meek (D-FL)
     38) Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
     39) Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
     40) Major Owens (D-NY)
     41) William Pascrell (D-NJ)
     42) Donald Payne (D-NJ)
     43) Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
     44) Bobby Rush (D-IL)
     45) Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
     46) Jose Serrano (D-NY)
     47) Pete Stark (D-CA)
     48) Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
     49) Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
     50) Maxine Waters (D-CA)
     51) Mel Watt (D-NC)
     52) Henry Waxman (D-CA)
     53) Robert Wexler (D-FL)
     54) Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
     55) Martin Meehan (D-MA)
     56) Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
     57) Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
     58) Eliot Engel (D-CA)
     59) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

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