One of the things I’m most thankful for about spending the last couple years with my Mom and Bob before their passing was spending hours talking to them about their lives. I wish I would have recorded some of it.
Bob told us of looking for work during the Depression. FDR was already in and had ramped up the great recovery for the nation. The best jobs were the ones as part of that recovery; building the great dams, roads, bridges. And those with the Civilian Conservation Corp building our state and national parks, forest roads and other infrastructure. Bob got a job in Washington state planting trees. I don’t know whether the planting was done to reforest clearcutting, a fire, or what, it doesn’t matter.
He talked about having a toe-sack full of seedlings and a kind of a long bladed hoe. You would take a few steps, whack the hoe into the ground to make a small hole, put a seedling in the hoe, then step on the divot with your other foot – all in one fluid motion; 50-75 men heading up a hill in a line all doing this same dance, the seedlings replenished when their sacks were empty. They were told the trees would be ready to harvest in about 80 years, right about now in fact.
That was the mindset of that time: We’re putting men to work now, creating something that our generation will not benefit from, and maybe not even our children but their children. It’s good for us and it’s good for the country.
How far we’ve gone off course from that kind of mentality. If it doesn’t work right now, today, then we shouldn’t do it.
The truth, of course, is that short-term fixes rarely work now or tomorrow. Why do we keep trying them?
As I drive around Summit County, Colorado, certainly one of the most beautiful places on god’s earth, everywhere you look you see the forest devastated by pine beetles. In some places 3/4 of the trees are dead.
This year I see there have been some (I assume) US Forest Service crews cutting the dead trees and stacking them in large piles. This has only been done in a very few areas easily accesible by vehicles. On the one hand it’s kind of weird to see large acreage devoid of pine trees, with just a few firs, aspens and other non-pines. On the other it looks like an amazing opportunity to do just what our grandfathers did when they put people to work in the 1930’s.
We need a new CCC. There are many thousands of men and women ready to build this country back up again. Let’s put them to work. One project, of a grand scale but worth every penny, would be to cut the dead trees. Make biofuel energy from them. Replant new trees. It’s a multi-year project with both long and short-term benefits.
Why can’t we think big any more?