Saturday, September 28, 2013

Knock on Wood... But Where?

I took this picture when I noticed that all the electrical lines for this train station were incased in rather strange concrete "pipes" that snaked through the entire station. It seemed like concrete was an overly cumbersome material to use as an electrical casing. 
A few days later I was walking across the KGU campus with a friend and in conversation, she used the phrase "knock on wood". It was then that it occurred to both of us that there wasn't any wood in sight. After walking for a bit we found a singular tree to knock on, but clearly there was no wood used in the construction of the campus. 
Since then I have been more aware of the fact that new construction in Japan utilizes very little wood. Of course the old, traditional houses that still stand are absolute masterpieces of carpentry, but that tradition seems to have died out in the construction of new, economical houses.
Returning to the train station, one day I happened to look down at the tracks and noticed that all the railroad ties were made out of concrete! I've often thought when looking at wooden railroad ties in America that such large pieces of wood would be hard to come by now. In Japan that indeed seems to be the case. I would imagine that in Japan natural resources can run out a lot quicker than in America, so when deforestation became a problem, an immediate shift to other materials was probably necessary.
I hope that in the future, America will be more open to making drastic changes when it becomes necessary to protect the environment. knock on... concrete?


  1. Well now we are using much more fir and other fast growing lumber than we used to. There was a time when it was said that fir would never be a suitable construction material, now all of our structural lumber for framing houses (2x4, 2x6 ect.) are fir. We also see much more plywood, osb, mdf, press board ect. that can be manufactured out of smaller lumber or reclaimed lumber. This coupled with the methods used now to thin forests rather then clear cut where possible taking the older trees out to allow the younger undergrowth the sunlight to take off and grow up, and the reseeding practices should continue to make lumber (I make no clams on the quality of the lumber) available in the states.

  2. You should read Jared Diamond's "Catastrophe". His description of the early Japanese recognition of the need to conserve their forests is really interesting. Unfortunately, the mostly saved their forests by deforesting other places (including now buy huge amounts of lumber from the US, where we don't do a great job of managing those resources).