By Steven Malikowski - MCEA volunteer and freelance writer
A few years ago, I cycled a lot in jolly olde England. It was great cycling, but seeing older England gave insights about younger and future Minnesota. Pictures of England and Scotland tell a few stories.
The rolling hills are wonderful. They provide great sights and a bit of exercise, but there's something in the pictures that I hope you notice.
I'm now going to do something that more experienced, and wise, bloggers would never recommend. They know that blog readers rarely start reading again if they stop. I'm going to ask that you stop reading, after this paragraph. Instead, please look closely at the pictures and answer a simple question. What's unique about the British landscape?
I’ll give you a hint. There’s something missing in the pictures, always hard to see what’s not there instead of what is. One more hint, what’s the tallest thing you see in the pictures? If you haven't noticed yet, I'll give a final hint, which wise bloggers would probably forbid.
I suggest you look away from this electronic window and out a real one. When looking out that window, what do you see that's common, tall, and not in many of these pictures?
The answer has bark, and here in Minnesota, they show up in wonderfully large groups, like woods or forests. One of my cycle trips in Britain was 1,100 miles. On that trip, I saw very few woods or forests. The woods were usually in places that are very hard to farm. The forests were usually planted in a grid pattern and behind a tall fence, since they were crops for logging. After a while, the rolling hills of England became less jolly, since there were so many hills with only grass or crops.
I mentioned this to a friend who grew up on a farm, in Minnesota. His response was that the woods and forests here would never go away. At the time, I couldn't think of a good reply, but since, I've wondered about the White Pine forests that used to be here, probably outside the real window you may have just used.
There was also a fascinating and troubling study done with satellite images. Researchers used satellite images to see what happened to forests from 2008 - 2012. One result was that forest, woods and wetland shrunk when crop prices went up. Minnesota lost 13,000 acres of forests and 25,000 acres of wetlands.
My farming friend and others may still say that Minnesota's woods and forests will always be around, that taking a few more trees is worth the profit. These days, that attitude reminds me of Jolly Olde England again, in the maps below. The top two are from the fabled Sherwood Forest.
England has existed for about 1,500 years. About 170 years ago, the Minnesota Territory was established. We're very young. Hopefully, our laws will continue to protect our wilderness, but laws can change, for better or worse. If they change for the better, we'll keep our wilderness. If not, the pictures at the top of this post could be of Minnesota, soon enough.
That leads me to the MCEA. I'm a new volunteer, and blogger. After moving back to the US in 2015, I heard about the MCEA, browsed its website, and found ways to help. I hope you will do the same, since it really is time to stop reading this blog post and do something. If you think this blog will help others get involved, please send them the link.
About the author
Steven Malikowski is a freelance writer at WordShop Services. After publishing several academic articles, he wanted to write something people would actually read, and hopefully enjoy. That started with a blog about his cycle touring, continued with a novel based on the time his brother lost his sight, and currently, he is writing about environmental issues.