W&WP August 2003

One on One:

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

"Grow more trees - use more wood," is the mantra of former Greenpeace leader Patrick Moore.

By Bernadette Freund

The first Earth Day, held April 22, 1970, spawned the modern-day environmental movement. It made environmental protection a major national issue.

A mere three months later, President Richard Nixon and Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency in response to the growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Over the course of the last three decades, a great number of environmental groups have emerged to press for even wider environmental forms. Greenpeace, one of the biggest, was founded in 1971 to protest hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder and former president of Greenpeace, was there. He continued his work with Greenpeace until 1986. It was then, he says, that he grew tired of waking up every day being against a list of things. He decided he wanted to be for something for a change.

Seizing on his background that included growing up in a forest industry family and his forest and ecology education, Moore chose to champion forestry and the importance of wood in every-day soceity. He has devoted the last 17 years to studying forests and ecosystems and challenging the public, government, and forest industry companies and groups to rethink their views about forests, forestry and the use of wood.

He founded Greenspirit in 1991 as a "consultancy focusing on environmental policy and communications in natural resources, bio-diversity, energy and climate change."

His main targets are the popular misconceptions of tree harvesting and forest management practices espoused by various environmental groups ranging from the Rainforest Action Network to Greenpeace. Moore's main message, "Grow more trees GÇô use more wood," is outlined in his book, "Green Spirit GÇô Trees Are the Answer," and on his Web site: www.greenspirit.com.

Moore has also presented his message through speaking engagements before numerous wood products trade groups, appearances on television talk shows and by-lined articles in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

As a principal spokesman for the Wood Promotion Network, Moore champions the attributes of wood as a construction material compared to less environmentally correct materials like steel and concrete. Simply put, he says wood is renewable and better for the environment.

Moore is not without his critics. Perhaps the most vehement are his former Greenpeace colleagues who view him as a sell-out. There is even a Web site titled, "Patrick Moore Is a Big Fat Liar."

Moore is clearly undeterred. He recently answered questions regarding his critics, forestry views and more.


How does a founder of Greenpeace, a man who spent 20 years with the environmental organization, become a chief spokesman of the Wood Promotion Network? Some people out there would consider that "selling out." How do you address this criticism?

I was born into a forest industry family on northern Vancouver Island. I studied forestry and forest ecology while I obtained my Ph.D. in ecology from the University of British Columbia in 1972. During the 15 years I was a leader of Greenpeace, 1971 to 1986, Greenpeace was never against forestry. They only adopted their anti-forestry campaign three years after I left when they became involved in the campaign to end logging in the Clayquot Sound area in British Columbia. I have never been opposed to forestry and have always believed that wood is our most abundant and sustainable renewable material resource. I never did change my mind about forestry and believe the correct environmental policy is "grow more trees - use more wood" rather than the anti-environmental policy "cut fewer trees - use less wood."

As far as the Wood Promotion Network, I have known Kelly McCloskey, who heads WPN, since we toured the forests of Europe together in 1992. We agreed then that what was needed is a more "retail" approach to public awareness about forests and forestry, and about our use of the wood which is derived from forests. One of the great failings for the forest industries has been the lack of support for media communication. The forest industry has one of the best stories about sustainability in the world yet they have allowed activists to paint them as bad for the environment.

To address criticism, when I am accused of being some kind of traitor or sellout for supporting forestry, I say first that I was born into a forest-industry family and second that sustainable forestry is one of the most environmentally defensible activities of our entire civilization. My support for forestry is not based on its economic benefits, which are important in their own right, but on the environmental benefits.


How do your attitudes and views of the forest and forestry differ today than in your tenure at Greenpeace? What resources and research did you discover that helped you come to the conclusion "grow more trees - use more wood?"

Certainly since leaving Greenpeace I have spent more time on and learned more about forests than when I was with Greenpeace and much more focused on marine issues and nuclear issues. But as explained above I have always believed in forestry as a renewable and sustainable industry.

When I joined the Forest Alliance of British Columbia, an industry-sponsored think tank of citizens from all walks of life, I was able to tour Europe, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, studying forests, meeting foresters and exchanging information. I became involved in the debate in British Columbia and was a spokesperson for the sustainable forestry movement.


What do you think are the most popular misconceptions about the wood industry that are perpetuated by environmentalist groups?

There are a couple of key misconceptions that are spread by activist groups. First, they promote the idea that forestry (logging) is the main cause of forest loss when in fact it is agriculture and urbanization (deforestation) that causes forest loss. Forestry causes forest renewal. These groups use the term "logging" synonymously with clearing forests for agriculture, but that is farming, not forestry.

Second, they claim that forestry (logging) is the main cause of species extinction when they can't actually name a single species made extinct by forestry. It is true that clearing forests for farming has caused species extinction, but again, that is farming not forestry.

These are the two main points they use for convincing people that it would be good to stop logging when in fact it would make a lot more sense to demand an end to farming, something they are unlikely to do as everyone knows we have to grow food.

But, as I say, "A world without forests is as unthinkable as a day without wood." We actually depend on wood for our survival and our civilization as much as we do on food.


Despite your pro-wood stance, are there things about forest conservation and management that concern you?

I think the tendency to go to single-species forests with insufficient consideration for biodiversity can be a problem. It is actually possible to do intensive, monoculture forestry while at the same time adopting stand level and landscape level practices that retain native biodiversity. I believe more emphasis should be put on this kind of win-win approach.

There is nothing wrong with single-species forestry, any more than there is anything wrong with single-species farming. But, it is a fact that monoculture forest often have less biodiversity than multi-species forests.

If we want to enhance biodiversity in monoculture forests we can retain features like dead standing trees, coarse woody debris, patches of shrubs, a small percentage of other tree species that naturally regenerate and so on. At the landscape level we can retain a network of reserves along streams and corridors that are allowed to remain natural forest.


One of the hot forestry topics is certification of forests and wood such as through the Forest Stewardship Council and the American Forest & Paper Assn.'s Sustainable Forest Initiative. What are your views on the importance of these programs to improve sustainable forest practices? What is your opinion of forest certification and wood certification?

Certification in itself can be good at promoting the adoption of comprehensive systems for sustainable forest management. But it should not be a monopoly as the FSC seems to think.

It is a real problem that wood is required to meet a higher standard for sustainability than the competing building materials such as steel and concrete. Where's the green steel and concrete? This ends up pushing architects away from our most renewable material and using materials that have more negative environmental impacts, a case of an uneven playing field.


You have spoken to numerous wood product trade groups in recent years. What message do you think they take away from your lectures and what actions do you hope they take?

I hope they realize that they don't need to feel guilty about their profession, that they should be proud to be producing our most renewable material resource and with being stewards of the land.

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