Logging in National Forests: A Crime or a Necessity?

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  • Our Uniqueness, Despite Our Doppelgängers
  • A Loss From Russia’s War: Cultural Exchange
  • Mr. Biden, Spare 44 Lives

An old-growth forest in the Sol Duc Valley on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.Credit…Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Leave Forests Alone, Before It’s Too Late,” by Carole King (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 26):

I love Ms. King’s music and I love the public forests of the American West. As a federal wildland firefighter I spent my career watching those forests burn — including in Idaho, Ms. King’s home state. Climate change has only exacerbated the issue.

My experience has taught me that older trees are more resistant to fire than younger trees when it comes to wildfires, but only if crowded groups of small-diameter trees are not growing directly underneath or adjacent to them.

Within the context of climate change, the forests of the West cannot simply be left “as they are.” The landscape is not a museum; it is a dynamic collection of living ecosystems that now require active management to promote their resilience against a climate that is rapidly changing.

Mike Benefield
Terrebonne, Ore.

To the Editor:

Thanks to the musician Carole King for an urgent and cogent call to protect our nation’s irreplaceable forests. Amid rising global temperatures and climate chaos evidenced by persistent droughts and mega-floods, conscientious caring for arboreal wilderness is imperative.

Writing in 2003, the Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva expressed dismay at the assault on forest lands: “It is a war unleashed by the violence of the monoculture mind, which reduces nature to raw material, life to a commodity, diversity to a threat, and views destruction as ‘progress.’” The American prophet of ecology Henry David Thoreau proclaimed that in pristine purlieus of the wild “is the preservation of the world.”

These ongoing venal acts of brute commercial exploitation bring humanity inches closer to our own eradication. There is a better and more harmonious way to live in peace with the trees.

Joe Martin

To the Editor:

In calling for the government to leave forests “as they are” — an end to active management of America’s 193 million acres of national forests — Carole King is effectively asking us to needlessly condemn millions of acres to the ravages of climate change. She also leaves out critical parts of the story.

We have tried to exclude all fire — even, in many cases, ecologically beneficial fire — from most national forests for more than a century. Once open, seasonally dry forests that thrived with frequent low-intensity fires have become dense forests with weakened resilience. Trees are struggling to survive the most severe mega-drought the West has seen in 1,200 years — a result of climate change. Working in climate-stressed forests, my colleagues and I see the results of this daily. Massive tree die-offs and uncharacteristically severe wildfires are now common in these unnaturally dense and unnaturally dry forests.

Climate-smart forestry such as strategic ecological thinning, prescribed burning and climate-informed reforestation can help forests adapt and become more climate resilient. If we do nothing, we will lose many more trees across more acres than will ever be removed through forest management.

Brian Kittler
Portland, Ore.
The writer is the vice president of forest restoration at American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization.

To the Editor:

Carole King’s opinion piece is high on emotion but low on the facts. Wood is much less carbon intensive, and better for the environment, than many other materials, such as steel, concrete or plastic.

If our wood doesn’t come from sustainably managed forests on public lands in the United States, it will come from illegal logging in places like the rain forest. The concept is called “leakage,” where our demands for wood are merely transferred elsewhere, often in places with fewer environmental controls than in this country.

The way to reduce global warming is to use fewer fossil fuels by changing our lifestyles. Stop flying in airplanes and mowing lawns is a good start.

Jerry Milne
Plymouth, Conn.
The writer is a certified forester who has managed thousands of acres of public forests for over 40 years.

Our Uniqueness, Despite Our Doppelgängers

Credit…François Brunelle

To the Editor:

Re “Your Doppelgänger Is Out There and You Probably Share DNA” (front page, Aug. 24):

Doppelgängers have fascinated, and frightened, human beings for a very long time. In ancient Egypt, for example, someone’s spiritual double was named “ka.” Writers from Shakespeare to Mark Twain to Stephen King have drawn on the phenomenon for their works, with Hollywood voraciously scooping up their ideas and then some. Startlingly close look-alike stand-ins and body doubles have built entire careers in movies and television.

As your story points out, with the billions of people who share our small planet, it stands to reason that Mother Nature can only be so creative, that “there are, after all, only so many ways to build a face.” It really is a conceit to think that, looks-wise, there could only be one of us. What intrigues, though, as alluded to in your article, is how behavior and environment might come into play in shaping the way we look.

Close resemblance or not, a quote attributed to the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead says it all: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

In the end, each of us is a bundle of uniqueness to be celebrated, from “the way your smile just beams” to “the way you sip your tea,” as George and Ira Gershwin reminded us in “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” And they really can’t.

Greg Joseph
Sun City, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I notice all the doppelgängers in the article look to be about the same age. If we look across the human life span, how many more “twins” can we find? Imagine looking into your much older face — or, in my case, seeing myself as I looked when I was much younger. What would that be like?

Louise Specht
Berkeley, Calif.

To the Editor:

I have never seen my doppelgänger, but my mother has.

Years ago, Mom was quite upset when I walked right by her on the sidewalk near where she worked. But I had not been anywhere near that location that day.

When your own mother mistakes someone else for you, that must be quite the doppelgänger.

Jared Still
Beaverton, Ore.

A Loss From Russia’s War: Cultural Exchange

To the Editor:

Re “Russia’s War Is Curtailing Scientific Progress,” by Michael Riordan (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 23):

I read with great interest Mr. Riordan’s essay about the toll on scientific knowledge created by the Russian attack on Ukraine. This is a toll I’ve frequently thought about in the past six months with respect to my own field.

Twenty years ago I spent a semester teaching American history at Moscow State University under the auspices of the Fulbright program. I developed warm friendships with many colleagues, particularly one historian who’s often been my houseguest and to whom I’ve introduced a number of American scholars in her area of expertise.

I haven’t heard from my dear friend since the war started, and the future of such cultural exchanges looks bleak. Not the biggest tragedy unleashed by this ghastly war, but painful nonetheless.

Glenna Matthews
Los Altos, Calif.

Mr. Biden, Spare 44 Lives

To the Editor:

Ronnie Aebischer, an opponent of the death penalty who said that James Coddington was his cousin, protested on Thursday outside the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City.Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Re “Oklahoma, Rejecting Clemency Guidance, Executes a Murderer” (news article, Aug. 26):

The death penalty has been used less often in recent years but, as the execution of James Coddington shows, some states are keen to reverse this trend. His is the first of 25 executions scheduled in Oklahoma over the next 28 months.

President Biden has said he will work to end the death penalty. It would be a good start if, instead of pardoning a turkey or two this Thanksgiving, he spared the lives of the 44 men languishing on federal death row. This would be a magnificent gesture.

A proud Irish American, Mr. Biden likes to quote Seamus Heaney’s line about making “hope and history rhyme.” He could do so by flexing his clemency power.

Ian O’Donnell
County Wicklow, Ireland
The writer is a professor of criminology at University College Dublin and the author of “Justice, Mercy and Caprice: Clemency and the Death Penalty in Ireland.”

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