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Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

If cutting trees down to build houses and buildings cause pollution, what do we live in?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7846 points ) October 12th, 2010

Doing research, I found that one cause of pollution is cutting down trees to develop land. If they don’t develop land, where do the people live?

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43 Answers

palerider's avatar

it doesn’t cause pollution, trees are a renewable resource
what part of cutting trees would possibly cause pollution.
btw, without trees we would other problems besides nowhere to live: no toilet paper, no writing paper, not to mention all the chemical products and byproducts we get from them.
please get your facts straight.

partyparty's avatar

Well there always seems to be a multitude of houses for sale.
Why not purchase a house that is already built.
Just a thought!

meiosis's avatar

There must be plenty of de-forested places available on which to build new homes, should the need be there, or you could, as @partyparty says, always re-use existing housing stock.

@palerider The main environmental dis-benefit of cutting down trees to develop land is that those trees are no longer available to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Trees harvested for commercial use in plantations are usually replaced with new trees, so over time the amount is roughly the same, but cutting down a tree and building a house in its place permanently prevents that patch of earth from sustaining a tree.

(Also, unless they’re cut down by hand and hauled out by hand, there is some pollution generated by the logging process itself)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Gosh, there are plenty of options available that don’t require cutting down trees. Purchasing or renting an existing dwelling is one. Some will recycle wood from buildings that are being condemned. Using products like bamboo and cork for roofs and flooring are becoming popular, as both regrow.

There are other building materials available as well, depending upon where one lives. Here is a link to an article where a person built a home out of a cargo container, just to name one.

And isn’t there a fellow Jelly that lives in an underground home? And then there is Cruiser, who spends a fair amount of time in a tent.

josie's avatar

We could consider actually living IN the trees.

palerider's avatar

so the true argument here is do we, as rightful landowners, have the right to cut down trees on our own property, or to develop the land as we see fit?
btw, there are more trees per acre now than at any time in the recent past because you can fit more trees in a smaller space when planted than when left to naturally germinate.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I would say more pollution from tree cutting down is the result of deforrestation for agricultural reasons over housing. I was reading a book recently they said they cut down something like 1000 hectares of trees daily in the amazon for this purpose. A DAY. ~137 species go extinct DAILY because of this as well.

@palerider Id love to see some research backing that.

palerider's avatar

@uberbatman fields used for agriculture are being planted in pines and hardwoods here in the southeast U.S. because the importation of foreign foods has made it almost impossible to make a living farming without government subsidies. simply put, more money can be made from planting and harvesting trees than from farming and with a lot less labor, even when you consider you can only harvest every 20 years.

meiosis's avatar

@palerider Here in the UK at least, one is free to cut down trees on one’s property unless the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

TPOs are used to protect selected trees and woodlands if their removal would have a significant impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public. The local planning authority should be able to show that a reasonable degree of public benefit would accrue before TPOs are made or confirmed. The trees, or at least part of them, should therefore normally be visible from a public place, such as a road or footpath, although, exceptionally, the inclusion of other trees may be justified. The benefit may be present or future; trees may be worthy of preservation for their intrinsic beauty or for their contribution to the landscape or because they serve to screen an eyesore or future development; the value of trees may be enhanced by their scarcity; and the value of a group of trees or woodland may be collective only. Other factors, such as importance as a wildlife habitat, may be taken into account which alone would not be sufficient to warrant a TPO. It is inappropriate to make a TPO in respect of a tree which is dead, dying or dangerous.

palerider's avatar

http://www.forestinfo.org/discover/fromtree.htm#PULP <- list of products made from trees

@meiosis that’s absurd. what’s the use of owning land if you can’t do with it as you see fit? do they make distinction between ornamental, fruit-bearing, or lumber-yielding trees? any consideration given to the proximity of the tree to a home that might possibly cause damage?

palerider's avatar

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/technologyandresearch/a/earthday.htm <- info about tree density. it’s just common sense, you can put more trees in a smaller space than if if they were to sprout naturally. the size of the trees are certainly smaller in diameter because they are thinned (thinned means select trees are removed to prevent overcrowding) @ age 15–20 and then clear-cut by age 30, but then they are usually replanted quickly so as to not lose any growing time.

meiosis's avatar

@palerider It’s not absurd, it’s a recognition that trees have a value to the wider public beyond their mere utility. The vast majority of trees*, however, do not have TPOs applying to them, so the landowner can do what they please. TPOs cannot be granted to dangerous trees, and existing TPOs can be revoked if the tree presents a danger.

There are also plenty of other regulations concerning land use here in the UK that mean a landowner can’t use their land just as they see fit, and I would be very surprised if the USA didn’t have something similar.

* For example, the city of Sheffield has around 2,000,000 trees and under 400 TPOs, covering around 500 trees

palerider's avatar

yes there are regulations in place to limit what you can do if it is going to cause harm to someone i.e. erosion, flooding, but there are no regulation to limit its use if it would deprive adjacent owners of some benefit like aesthetics or shade. a person does not purchase a product/property for intrinsic public use or enjoyment but his own. if the public should receive a benefit from the use or disuse of the property then that is a bonus but the owner should not be punished for the development either. if this logic were applied to all aspects of life then when we went to the grocery store we would have buy enough so that we would have enough for all our neighbors. when a person purchases a thing, the people near that person do not have a claim on his property because of their proximity.

palerider's avatar

this article relating how the density of trees in california is actually a fire hazard because of overcrowding. the environmentalists won’t let allow proper forest management i.e. cutting, thinning, and creating and maintaining fire breaks. http://www.wy.blm.gov/fireuse/docs/Saving_Forest_Book.pdf

El_Cadejo's avatar

@palerider Im not disagreeing that you can plant more trees in dense areas. I have very little doubt of that actually. but “there are more trees per acre now than at any time in the recent past ” would imply that your talking about across the entire earth, and when taken into account all the construction and deforestation for other reasons, there is simply no way that can be true.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Also the southeast US is good for replanting trees and what not, but theyre in no way a major contributor to the issue. Think more along the lines of the tropical rain forests and other huge forests.

Also, think about what trees do for humans. Now, if there were over all less trees, wouldnt that mean less clean oxygen as well? So wouldnt that also make the air quality worse? I think that justifies it being called pollution right there…

palerider's avatar

if you don’t live in or near a forest, have never worked in the forestry industry, and have no clue what about what you speak…, then at least use some reasoning…, millions of people around the world make their living working with trees and the resulting products, don’t you think they would look after them very well if they stand to make more money by better usage?
@uberbatman yes, the entire world. there are billions and billions of dollars to be made in forestry (silviculture), farmers and corporate industries are planting more trees than are being harvested. some old growth timber is being cut, sure, but many trees can be planted in the space of one of those trees.

palerider's avatar

ok, i have given opinions and i have given facts, if still there is no way to convince you, i’m sorry.
you can lead a horse to water….

El_Cadejo's avatar

@palerider I know all about forests, I live in the middle of the Pine Barrens in NJ. My uncle owns a tree service company and my one of my best friends works for another…. I know exactly how it works. Your missing my point though. Sure there are people who actually replant trees and other such things, but to sit here and say ohhh it happens everywhere is simply not true. Oh goody, theyre making billions of dollars in this industry, it doesnt negate the fact that precisely what theyre doing for this money is fucking up the earth. Oh boy money is involved that makes it ok now.

Want some facts
The Philippines lost a total of 9.8 million ha of forests from 1934 to 1988 (just one small country alone, that much forest lost.)

A recently completed research program (TREES) employing the global imaging capabilities of Earth-observing satellites provides updated information on the status of the world’s humid tropical forest cover. Between 1990 and 1997, 5.8 ± 1.4 million hectares of humid tropical forest were lost each year, with a further 2.3 ± 0.7 million hectares of forest visibly degraded.
They’re both peer reviewed sources :)
Now,,, you mean to tell me, all these trees that are being cut down are just being regrown? I mean the question itself negates this theory by saying we’re building houses on said land.
You really think in other areas where theyre densely packing trees it makes up for this mass amount of loss? Im sorry but I find it really hard to believe

palerider's avatar

again confusing acreage with density. yes, still more trees. and even in south america they are replanting.

meiosis's avatar

@palerider “if this logic were applied to all aspects of life then when we went to the grocery store we would have buy enough so that we would have enough for all our neighbors.”

No, it really wouldn’t. It’s analagous to the concept of National Parks, but on a much smaller scale.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@palerider prove it. Thats all I asked from the beginning. Show me some sources.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Why do most of my questions always turn into debates?

meiosis's avatar

@Aesthetic_Mess Because they’re good questions?

El_Cadejo's avatar

Your original source is pretty vague just talked about percentages but no real numbers. It also seems to be focused directly on the US not world
@Aesthetic_Mess its a good thing :)

palerider's avatar

@meiosis national parks are owned by the government bought and paid for with the people’s taxes as a collective. i also have a problem with that, but its off-topic.
@uberbatman if you take(cut) an old growth tree with a canopy of say 50 ft diameter then you have roughly 1963 ft in which to plant new trees.(spacing is usually 8X8, so, idk, more than 10 times the number?) old trees are larger there are fewer of them per acre, when you plant new trees you can put many more smaller trees in the place of the older larger trees. you can put many more marbles than oranges in a jar. and if you were to make your living in forestry, you would not only want to always have trees, but have them in abundance.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@uberbatman How is it a good thing?

palerider's avatar

i’m done, i’ll let someone else take up the torch if they are willing. bottom line, we are not raping the land, we make our living, our homes, our air, and many, many other products and byproducts from trees, we know this and have planted many more than were there to replace them.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Aesthetic_Mess because often debates require you to really think about something and often learn something new along the way :P

squirbel's avatar

Is anyone else bothered by the inductive reasoning of this question?

“If cutting trees down to build houses and buildings cause pollution, what do we live in?”

The real answer to this should be:

“We change the lumber industry to use more earth healthy practices and machinery.”

The act of cutting trees does not cause pollution. If faced with a follow-up question of:

“Why do we keep cutting trees, because when they are over-cut, it leads to massive erosion and destruction of habitats?”

I would then answer as everyone has answered thus far.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@palerider “if you take(cut) an old growth tree with a canopy of say 50 ft diameter then you have roughly 1963 ft in which to plant new trees.” see thats the problem. These trees with the huge canopies, where do you think all the respiration from that plant comes from? So if you have a bunch of new growth canopies with barely anything on them, then how is 8 trees better in a spot than the massive one?

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@uberbatman I see now.
@squirbel I’m sorry I didn’t phrase it right. It was just a thought that popped into my head, and I wrote it as I was thinking it.

squirbel's avatar

That’s cool :)

So were you asking about the massive erosion/destruction?

I hate it, and I hate how certain people are raping Madagascar – when we haven’t even discovered all of the animal life there. They just discovered a new animal there recently, in the past weeks.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@squirbel Well that’s part of it. It was basically what would we continue to live in at least for people now coming into the world, and later on what would they live in if cutting down trees caused erosion. What would we do about it, and what would we live in if they decided to stop cutting down the trees.
I’m not sure that even made sense.

squirbel's avatar

Ah, well then the root of that problem you pose is money. People make money when they set up deals to build houses; people make money when the materials are bought and the house is built, banks make money from offering the house and selling it to a borrower, and on and on. It’s a very profitable venture.

As long as people want to make money, they are going to continue to do wasteful and silly things for that buck.

meiosis's avatar

@palerider Ah, I see. Here, it’s generally private citizens and corporations that own the land, not the government, so if want the same amenity that National Parks give, we have to place the obligation on the landowner. We’re way too over-crowded to allow for the government to have large holdings of land.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I think that you’ve got the issues a bit mixed up, @Aesthetic_Mess. “Clear-cutting” a stand of timber, which is the “cheapest” way to harvest lumber, leaves the land vulnerable to erosion from hard rains. That is, the trees that used to shield the land from the direct force of rain no longer do that, the undergrowth is often stripped out and burned with the waste limbs and leaves of the trees (since they have no economic value), and rains can harm the land in two ways:

1. On hillsides, the topsoil that takes centuries to accumulate can be washed away into streams in just a few short growing seasons. That means that the hillside is less able to support new growth of timber, and the streams are polluted with silt and runoff from the hills, making them less able to support the aquatic life that lives in them.

2. On flat areas such as the Amazon River basin, the land is notoriously poor to begin with, and the rains on denuded land leach whatever minerals have been accumulated on the surface back underground with the rainwater, or into the river and out to sea.

The clear-cut “slash burn” also contributes to air pollution, especially when the clear-cutting is done on an “industrial” scale of square miles of land at a time.

Cutting lumber and using it in construction of long-lived objects such as housing is actually a good thing, if you’re concerned about carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, because wood is a “carbon sink”. So if you use and preserve the wood that’s used, and plant trees to replace what is harvested, then you’re actually doing some good for the atmosphere (and the land), because young fast-growing trees utilize carbon dioxide more than mature older trees. (And if trees are left to die and decay naturally, then they give off their CO2 in a slow oxidation process—rotting—which is chemically nearly the same as burning, only much, much slower.)

Aqua's avatar

Deforestation is a huge problem worldwide. Tropical forests are being cut down at a rate of over 46,000 mi2 per year, and only half of the original tropical forests remain. Reforestation isn’t the best either. The problem with reforestation is that natural forests and jungles provide high levels of biodiversity. When these forests are cut down and other trees planted (I forget which type, but there’s a just a few species they usually plant) they aren’t able to sustain the same levels biodiversity that lived there before.

Trees are definitely a necessity, as many people have already stated. I think the solution is to just consume more conservatively and waste less.

gailcalled's avatar

Use stones and boulders where they are plentiful.

Use adobe where there is clay and straw.

Use bundles of newspapers, bales of hay, concrete, woven palm fronds and vines, berms, corn cobs…the list is wonderful. http://www.strawbalecentral.com/

YARNLADY's avatar

Some the above ideas are not substitutes for tree products, Bamboo, cork, and newspaper all come from trees. However, the basic premise is not correct.

Rice stalks, hay, stones, concrete, iron and dirt are all substitute sources, but not necessarily environmentally friendly.

mattbrowne's avatar

Long-term the future might be this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcology

which will limit land-use by people.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@mattbrowne interesting looking architecture

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, indeed :-)

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