While this is a beautiful book filled with many valuable facts, images and illustrations, the environmentalist zeal and faulty reasoning on which it stands does a great disservice to its youthful audience. Tragically, it has been approved for use in Ontario Middle and High Schools.
One straightforward example is their claim that the Boreal Forests are the “lungs of the Earth”. They write,
“Like all living plants, trees grow by taking carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen. Like all living animals, we do the reverse – our lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. The boreal forest is the biggest forest left in the world – bigger than the tropical rain forest. So, when you breathe, some of the air you inhale is likely fresh, sweet [note the irrelevant adjective] oxygen from the boreal forest. And some of what you exhale will eventually become part of a living boreal tree. That’s why environmentalists call the boreal forest “the lungs of the Earth.”
The Lungs of the Earth?
There are three problems here. The least significant is the absurd sensationalism of the phrase “lungs of the Earth“. This phrase was originally coined to describe the ecological position of rainforests. Appropriating it for the Boreal Forest in no way improves its logic.
In this apparent contest over which favorite ecosystem is most important, it is far more likely that the Euphotic Zone, the top ~200+ metres, of the oceans exchange more carbon dioxide (CO2) for oxygen (O2) than all land based ecosystems combined. Oceans, after all, constitute ~71% of the surface of the Earth.
Such facts can be verified scientifically, if one were to do the work. Jane Drake (an activist with Pollution Probe in Toronto) and Anne Love have not. However, there are more significant problems with this book.
The Environmentalists’ Misanthropy
A second problem is the explicit presumption that the Earth’s CO2 regulation is the necessary responsibility of human beings. Though activists have, in large degree, the ear
of the media, there is no consensus that Global Warming is man-made (31,000, mainly scientific, petitioners say otherwise), or even a significant function of CO2. There is ample evidence that the world has experienced higher CO2 levels before (3,000 ppm), promoting fantastic growth and evolution by Plants. It is also obvious that these levels occurred long before the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, CO2 levels have been so low that it has approached the minimum concentration at which plants can photosynthesize (180 ppm). There is no evidence that global warming will actually be catastrophic, lots of evidence that it might be beneficial, and that it is a function of cosmological factors (solar output, Earth’s orbital and axial tilt variations). Every item of evidence Drake uses to support her scaremongering viewpoint has a much cooler interpretation for more rational minds.
The environmental crusaders are uncomfortable with humanity’s success and its impact on the biology of the planet. But these crusaders care less for humanity than for trees, rocks (Niagara Escarpment) and animals. E.g., by 1972, worldwide, annual malarial deaths had dropped to 50, but since that year’s banning of DDT to protect falcons (who may never have been affected), malarial deaths now exceed one million (mostly children) —again, that is annually! This makes environmentalism a genocidal proposition. Cool Woods authors have positioned themselves as member of that same league.
A close look at the environmentalist belief system reveals that they find fault in any human involvement in the ‘environment’, yet the same things done by nature they consider to be special and wonderful. Thus carnivores can eat meat, but humans should not. That Cool Woods speaks adoringly of aboriginal and other, backwards (myth-based), cultures further supports its anti-technological leanings.
Human’s are not only blamed, for being a successful species, but are expected to curtail their existence in favor of whatever rock, plant, or insect the environmentalists can convince the public is sacred.
Change is normal, but every Environmentalist proposal to mitigate the imaginary ogre of man-made climate change requires reining in human progress. Their restrictions stand to harm more to human beings more than any actual temperature change, will do little to ‘help’ Nature, and will hamper the economic progress that would be needed to mitigate real environmental change should it occur. There are many useful book resources about environmentalism that readers should consider (Environmental Overkill, The Return of the Primitive, The Skeptical Environmentalist) as well as Internet sites and articles (environment.com, earth4man, and particularly these ).
Reason Only Counts if it Supports Prior Conclusions
The third issue, with which VM is most concerned, is the intellectual standard Drake and Love demonstrate to juvenile readers. Substituting a metaphor (Lungs of the Earth) for an argument, to justify their ultimate claim, is poor logic, poor science, an unsuitable technique, and a terrible example, for those claiming to be an authority. Should one try to use Cool Woods for only its most concrete facts, readers will have to retain considerable skepticism.
Even the summation of their book should cause an alert reader to question their preservationist position. Taking its lead from the book, their publisher’s review says,
Despite our reliance on it, we have placed the “lungs of the earth” under siege with clear cutting, acid rain, and even radioactivity.” If the Boreal Forest is in such need of preservation, how can it also be true that, as they say, “If you walked around the world through the boreal forest, you’d find few roads?”
This VM reviewer (a biologist) has directly researched the impact of forest cutting and has seen that clear-cut regeneration is not so different from, and is generally faster than, regeneration following natural fire. Clearcutting increases species diversity. Photos focus on the immediate aftermath, rather than a very few years later (right). The authors further argue that the boreal forest acts as a carbon sink that inhibits global warming, and clear cutting may thereby reduce the boreal forest’s purported benefits. They fail to point out that fires release enormous amounts of CO2! If the authors view fire as a “key to the future health of the forests“, why is clear cutting listed as a siege item? I suggest it is because the authors resent the fact that clear-cutting benefits mankind, and the ‘apparent’ destruction is unsightly. They likely prefer fire because it benefits no one.
The authors ignore the oceans and the host of planktonic and coralline creatures that capture carbon. Yet, the deep oceans are not saturated with CO2. The Boreal Forest is a minor element among the complex factors influencing atmospheric CO2 levels, and is only one of many other complex factors influencing global climate. It is wise to question whether atmospheric carbon has anything at all to do with change in global temperature!
Drake and Love treat the philosophical principles that underpin their Environmentalist position as foregone conclusions, and never dare to state their misanthropic position explicitly. Likely, they realize these views are too extreme &/or abstract for their young readers, and prefer instead to indoctrinate them with half truths and feel-good claims.
The not so implicit message, again and again, is that Mankind must be subordinated to Nature, and our actions should be curtailed accordingly. That addresses a very fundamental question of philosophy:
Do humans have the right to live on Earth according to their own terms?
The answer provided by Cool Woods subjugates your children’s lives to trees.