Power Equipment Australasia

OPINION TALKING TIMBER Smart businesses understand the importance of knowing their customers. Even smarter businesses delve deeper, gaining insight into their customers’ industries and the challenges they face. In this debut series, GARY FOOKS turns our attention to the forest and wood products sector in Australia. The timber industry, spanning from forest to furniture and logging to paper, is a significant user of outdoor power equipment. While specialised chainsaws are utilised in tree felling, it is common to find domestic leaf blowers employed in cleaning sawmill floors or factory premises. ENVIRONMENTAL AND POLITICAL PRESSURES Utilising timber for construction, such as building homes, is often touted as an environmentally responsible choice. However, understanding the intricate political pressures surrounding the timber industry is crucial. At the forefront of environmental concerns is global warming, attributed to excessive carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels like petrol and coal. Conversely, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, utilising sunlight in the process of photosynthesis to produce oxygen and sugars, which eventually contribute to the formation of timber. Plants take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and, starting with the process of photosynthesis we all vaguely remember from primary school, use sunlight to do its work. Phase one, the light cycle is when the chloroplast (the green stuff) uses sunlight to split water (H2O) and releases oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere, giving us all something to breathe. The dark cycle is where the hydrogen (H) from water is combined with three carbon dioxide atoms (CO2) to make a single new molecule C6H12O6, a sugar. Which gives us something to eat. Or if we leave it to grow, this sugar is used by the plant to make even more complex molecules which we see as stalks, branches, and trunks – timber. The bottom line is that timber is about 49.5% carbon, all of it taken from the atmosphere. Of course, if we burn the timber, we get the opposite result. The carbon in the timber plus oxygen (burning) goes back into the atmosphere, mostly as CO2. Or to get a hotter fire, we compress a big pile of plant matter, compress it under the earth for a few million years, then dig it up as coal. While timber is a carbon-neutral resource when harvested sustainably, concerns arise when logging impacts old-growth forests. Groups like LEAN advocate for ending deforestation to mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity, presenting a significant political pressure. The Labor Party subgroup know as LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network) has called to end deforestation - logging and clearing - if we are to deliver on these commitments, protect animals and address climate change, through carbon storage in forests. At the last Labour National conference, more than 300 Labor branches backed a push by LEAN for the Albanese government to “fund an expanded, publicly owned plantation industry to ensure the country gets the timber it needs and end native forest logging.” 14 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | MARCH - APRIL 2024