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Post: Are we seeing the wood from the trees?

Mr Rob Thompson, NCT's Assistant General Manager

As experienced foresters observing a plantation or forest, we would generally have a wider and more informed perspective as to what we are seeing, compared to the more limited perspective of a person not versed in matters forestry.

Non-foresters would likely see the area from several perspectives largely driven by the viewer’s individual points of reference:  a natural area perhaps with potential for a picnic or a hike; a place where undesirables can lurk, concealed and ready to pounce; an excellent place to establish a housing estate; a hinderance that ought to be cleared to make room for a mall or factory site or something perceived as more progressive than an unused natural area … chemical storage perhaps or how about a land-fill?

Conversely, trained foresters would inherently evaluate the condition and age of the tree species in the stand and appreciate the value and applicability of the timber resource.  They would identify the presence of natural factors placing the stand health at current or future risk, assess the suitability of the site itself and understand clearly the greater sustainable purpose of the natural system under observation.

Effectively we are seeing the wood for the trees which others don’t and which analogy leads to me to conclude that we ought to be recognising and extending this useful and inherent insight or trait, to other aspects of our daily lives and interactions. Far too often we find ourselves falling into the trap of seeing only the greenery but ignoring the underlying value.

The above concept was suddenly brought home at a tree planting ceremony and workshop for small-scale timber growers in the Richards Bay area. After two years of covid restrictions, the hunger for direct interaction was palpable as vehicle after vehicle arrived at the venue carrying attendees. A casual onlooker may have wondered what the hype was all about. After all, these people farm on minute areas seldom extending beyond two hectares in size. Why would they bother to attend a workshop? Surely they should be focused on establishing better enterprises from which to earn a living?

On reflection however, the reality is that these small growers are consciously taking charge of their lives and in a small but meaningful way, utilising their environment to better their circumstances and in turn those of the greater community. Collectively, they form a powerful force of timber growers and their contribution towards strategic timber supply and the economy must not be underestimated. Their planted stands may not be aesthetically pleasing (or big) but they do provide well for a multitude of purposes. This is a group of people who, despite the daily difficulties they encounter, are effectively self-sufficient and are making a positive contribution on many fronts.

We need to see the wood for the trees and recognise and celebrate the efforts of our small growers.

An earlier article relates to the impact of the recent floods.  Accessibility to compartments and felled timber is nigh on impossible. Our mills run behind schedule regularly due to poor accessibility to timber. The mud adherence to logs imports silica to the wood chippers causing down time and delays as knives are sharpened and repaired. Roads become impassable and general operating conditions are miserable and highly taxing.  We bemoan the onset of rampant weed growth and complain about revenue loss and increased costs.

We fail to realise however that even as trained and experienced forestry practitioners, we are also susceptible to falling into the trap of not seeing the wood for the trees. Yes, the rain is a hinderance and interrupts our immediate production plans but, not enough time is afforded to considering and appreciating the longer term benefits of an improved ground water-table, full dams, strong stream flow, the environmental benefits of this flush and improved volume yield. A more holistic approach is called for which is often quite challenging to adopt.

Of course, you all see and watch the daily news, most often comprising bad or depressing, yet highly saleable, stories of doom and gloom. We become engrossed in these reports using our infinite social media connectivity to further trawl the depths of the ongoing depravity for nuggets of angst and despair.

But are we all seeing the wood for the trees?

Are we becoming too far engrossed in the media portrayals and not far enough into potential outcomes and actions that we can control? Are we being driven to complain and become dejected, as first option, rather than, like the example set by our small growers, use what we have fully and get on with it to make a difference? Are we too focused on the story telling to take notice of and contribute further towards the underlying positive results?  

Inspired people, or those who have seen the wood for the trees, move towards doing it for themselves having understood that reliance on compromised authorities and institutions is not always optimal. People are becoming far more outspoken and are submitting substantiated claims against those who have done them wrong with some landmark successes being recorded.

Environmental awareness is growing. Unprecedented rain and heat events are bringing home the reality of global warming and people are contributing more towards, and subscribing to, productive environmental awareness and amelioration programmes.  Neighbourhood residents collect litter as they walk their dogs; beach and river clean up campaigns attract multitudes of volunteers; municipalities are slowly being forced to comply to their mandates of service delivery in the face of citizens mending water provision and sewage plants themselves; potholes are being repaired by local businesses and verges and parks maintained by local residents.

In the wake of the pandemic is a swath of IT innovations and remote access protocols that have made positive inroads into social interactions, savings on travel, lessening of environmental impact and hygiene improvements. Seeing beyond the devastation of the pandemic is a world of change and opportunity, not easily reachable, but certainly worthwhile for those who consciously decide to embark on that journey.  

Did I notice some hint of acquiesce in the demeanour of our President during the recent State of the Nation speech? This is a man who knows that much of the citizenry are holding his establishment to account for the dire situation in which they find themselves. He knows this because they are actively telling him by word and in actions.

What is left up to us is to ensure that more and more people look beyond the leaves and see the wood where the real value of the forest tree lies. We started the journey and there is no stopping this process. There is only hope and certainly enough high value wood for all to share once our collective actions begin to make their mark.

By: Rob Thompson
NCT’s Assistant General Manager

Source: FSA Magazine – Forestry in Focus                              

This article is tagged in:
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  • Those who grow alone, die alone: why transformation is strategic for the MTO Group
  • NCT
  • Pangolin
  • Patula Risk
  • Sabie Poles
  • SAFCOL
  • Saw Specialists
  • Stihl
  • Sunshine Seedling Services
  • Treated Timber Products
  • TWK
  • WoodBiz Africa
  • Afrequip
  • Latschbacher
  • Alternative Structures Logo
  • Arxada
  • Bell
  • Ezigro Seedlings
  • Foresta Timber & Board
  • FSC
  • Hin-Tech Manufacturing
  • Husqvarna
  • John Deere
  • Khulani Timbers
  • Kwamahlati Training Services
  • LESH
  • Loadtech Load Cells
  • Logmech
  • Merensky
  • Mondi
  • Those who grow alone, die alone: why transformation is strategic for the MTO Group
  • NCT
  • Pangolin
  • Patula Risk
  • Ponsse
  • Rance Timbers
  • Sabie Poles
  • SAFCOL
  • Sappi
  • Saw Specialists
  • SAWPA
  • SSA
  • Stihl
  • Sunshine Seedling Services
  • Treated Timber Products
  • TWK
  • UCL Sawmill
  • Wood-Mizer
  • WoodBiz Africa
  • Wuhlf

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