Seeing both the forest and the trees
By Pulp & Paper Canada
By Pulp & Paper Canada
With the first issue of 2007, I thought it would be a good idea to usher in the New Year on a more affirmative note. Shuffling through the papers on my desk (no chance of a paperless office for me), I…
With the first issue of 2007, I thought it would be a good idea to usher in the New Year on a more affirmative note. Shuffling through the papers on my desk (no chance of a paperless office for me), I came across a report from the Abundant Forest Alliance that listed many positive facts about our industry — this led to further research in the virtual archives of National Resources Canada.
It was quite an interesting read.
The statistics on the forestry sector were significantly positive while covering a wide scope of information, ranging from the basic forest facts through to the environmental track record. For instance, forests and wooded land make up about 46% of Canada’s land mass, accounting for 10% of the world’s forest cover. Of this amount in Canada, 70% has never been harvested. Since each province and territory set an annual allowable cut based on the sustainable growth rate of the particular forest area, with the goal of maintaining biological diversity, about one third of 1% of Canada’s commercial forest is harvested (0.9 million hectares). Of the 0.9 million hectares of forest harvested each year, 53% is regenerated naturally, 43% is replanted and 4% is direct-seeded.
The state of the forests seem quite healthy from this perspective. Yet how much of this is known by the general public?
It’s frustrating that popular misconceptions about the sustainable forestry in North America often lay the blame on the pulp and paper industry and clear-cutting.
According to the NRC website, pulp and paper mills have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 1990 levels and new operational harvesting techniques have greatly reduced the industry’s ecological footprint in the forest. Also heading in a good direction is the increasing use of biomass for energy consumption which helps deal with the high cost of purchasing energy from other sources.
So, if all this is good news, isn’t that something that the media should help disseminate occasionally? Usually our industry gets into the news through an environmental offence or industrial accident, not to mention the softwood repercussions on our industry. The opinion of the pulp and paper industry has also not been enhanced by recent troubles and closures.
But in a recent article reported by the Canadian Press, Frank Dottori, former CEO of Tembec, predicted that, while the coming year will also be difficult, “the industry has already hit bottom in its worst crisis since the 1930s.”
“It’s going to be sunny again,” he predicted, explaining that “there’s going to be a smaller, more efficient industry when we’re finished.”
We’ve been holding our breath for so long that this sounds, to a certain degree, like a positive statement. Let’s hope for the best.
As for the magazine, the new year here traditionally brings the annual Chemical Report article (see pages 14-17) which summarizes the supply/demand balances in the industry, as well as how this reflects on the prices demanded by many of the major players in this section of the industry. We find that this is a very popular subject and is highly anticipated by many of our readers. The article is also translated into French and published later in the year in our sister publication, Les Papetires du Quebec.
Related to the input is the output and, besides the desired products of our industry, there might be some less acceptable ones. James Hartshorn, an environmental management consultant with Golder Associates, writes about the new Spills Bill in Ontario which promises tougher penalties for spills with, as he says, particular attention to spills where there was a monetary benefit to the spiller. While the industry is, obviously, cleaning up and improving its environmental footprint, this just might give an added urgency to moving the process along. (See page 23.)
Strange to think that a revolution on the other side of the globe would have an impact on our industry in Canada but such was the way that the Hungarian revolution impinged on Canada in the 1950s. It’s a piece of history that Canada should be proud of and, at the same time, appreciate. (Read more about it on pages 28-30.)
Let’s get started on this year.