There are a number of sustainable practices in North Florida that can be employed to burn firewood for heat. First, however, there is a distinct lack of understanding that pervades our “civilized” culture and leaves many Floridians pondering the wisdom of those Native Americans whom our ancestors displaced. There is a fundamentally uncivilized misconception about what “fuel” really boils down to.
The carbon cycle is something Floridians need to have a handle on before they can begin to understand the past, present, and future of burning hydrocarbons for heat and power. In the age of the internet, one needn’t earn a PhD in chemistry and take college level biology courses to understand respiration (oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels) and photosynthesis (the source of all our hydrocarbon fuels). The links provided show that one reaction is essentially the reverse of the other. That’s why they call it a carbon ‘cycle’. Basically, plants use the sun’s energy to fix carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, and animals oxidize these starches, celluloses, and sugars, back into carbon dioxide for plants to fix again, into fuel.
Surprisingly, even well educated people often don’t understand that the word “hydrocarbon” encompasses just about any organic molecule, any of which can be oxidized to carbon dioxide. Coal and oil are simply convenient, high energy density solids and liquids, respectively. By oxidizing these sequestered reserves of hydrocarbon, scientists and politicians have alerted us to an acute need to recycle the present day flood of carbon dioxide product back into carbohydrates again with more plants and less combustion. Rich or poor, deforestation appears to be the response of a species that is unable to adapt. It brings new meaning to the term “You can’t take it with you” even if you feel you won’t be going anywhere once you expire.
Thus, it might seem anything but progressive, or “green” to contemplate burning firewood for heat. Yet, this is precisely what we do, one way or another, every time we eat. Moreover, as our supply of convenient hydrocarbon reserves dwindle, we’ll ultimately need to balance both our carbon and budget deficits if we are to reach a more civilized solution than our Native American predecessors contemplated. In that respect, perhaps it is men who might best exercise the most civilized decision in terms of planned parenthood- only with a much smaller tomahawk, in an outpatient setting.
How about those sustainable woodsman practices? Even the practice of cutting only fallen timber should be considered carefully. The value of a healthy forest with ample topsoil cannot be overestimated. Florida is basically an ancient sea bed. The nutrients that make things grow in Florida are very rapidly depleted without a constant supply of decaying matter. Healthy plants will not survive in sand depleted of carbon and the aquifers can be quickly overwhelmed by chemical fertilizers. The author cuts only enough freshly fallen timber to heat one home located on five mostly wooded acres during subfreezing weather. Saplings are transplanted from heavily wooded areas to those formerly cleared for commercial agriculture, while some land is set aside for family scale cultivation. Increased transpiration and shade around the home, particularly on the southern and western exposures should prove highly beneficial in terms of summer cooling costs. See the attached photo of a slow flow irrigation system for these trees and stay tuned to Dr Peterson’s web page to watch and learn with the intrepid Peterson family.