December 9, 2000
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Today's New York Times prints an editorial, "Cutting Luna," arguing against the "destruction" of any old-growth redwood tree.
"Their great age, their great mass, the fragility of their habitat, the declivity of the soils they anchor, the biological delicacy of the streams they overshadow -- all these things make their cutting indecent," the Times editorial writes, asserting that there is "desecration inherent in cutting 1,000-year-old trees for our short-lived, shortsighted uses."
The editor of Smartertimes.com has spent a fair amount of time among the redwoods of Northern California and finds them inspiring, beautiful and worth preserving. But the truth is, plenty of them are already preserved. California alone has the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve, Navarro River Redwoods State Park, Portola Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Smithe Redwoods State Reserve, which, according to the California State Parks, encompass a total of 109,327 acres. The federally run Redwood National Park is another 75, 392 acres, and Muir Woods National Monument is another 554 acres. As the Times editorial points out, the taxpayers spent $480 million last year to buy another 10,000 acres of redwoods.
With this much redwood acreage already under strict protection, it is not as if the trees are in danger of extinction as a species. Any human who wants to go see them has no shortage of choices. So why does the Times oppose cutting down even a single additional tree, even on private land?
"Their great age"? Well, granite is older than redwood, but you don't see the Times editorializing against quarrying to create material for high-end kitchen counters.
"Their great mass"? Well, again, a vein of granite has plenty of mass. And if you want to talk about biomass, the young trees that the New York Times Company killed to produce the total press run of this morning's edition of its newspaper probably have a total mass far greater than that of a single old-growth redwood.
"The fragility of their habitat"? In fact, redwood habitat is characterized not by fragility but by durability. The trees withstand fires, earthquakes and tremendous extremes of wetness and dryness.
"The declivity of the soils they anchor"? Some of the biggest old-growth redwoods stand not on steep hillsides but in flat valleys. A walk through Muir Woods or the Armstrong grove would confirm that.
"The biological delicacy of the streams they overshadow"? Does the Times really think the streams overshadowed by redwoods are more biologically delicate than the streams overshadowed by the trees cut down to produce the Times? It must be something in the water.
What remains in the Times editorial is a kind of animism untempered by any concern for the property rights of someone who might own land with a redwood on it, and apparently untainted by the knowledge that when a redwood tree falls, eventually another one grows back in its place. In the end, the Times' argument for not cutting down any more redwoods rests mainly on aesthetics. And that is a tenuous position for the newspaper that in an editorial on August 29 came out in favor of a new city law that would ban discrimination on the basis of appearance.
The Popular Vote: Another editorial in today's Times says, "If Mr. Gore does carry Florida after the hand counts, Mr. Bush should concede, since the vice president would then have won both the national electoral vote and the popular vote." The Constitution makes clear that the popular vote has nothing to do with it. The Times says that candidates who follow its advice on these matters will be displaying "statesmanship," but in fact what they will be doing is disregarding the Constitution.
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