Of Baby Boomers and Conifer Forests
Siblings in Nature and Demographics
The Baby Boomer generation and conifer plantations, though products of different systems, demonstrate surprisingly similar environmental and social canopies. Both were seeded densely, each pressed closely to the next, with little room to broaden.
Resource allocation was unnaturally skewed, so neither invested in a deep-rooted structure, being unnecessary and costly. Instead, they optimised around their numerical advantage, forming a temporary robustness, yet still engaging in subtle individual competition for a spot in the ever-rising canopy. In both wealth and woodland, it was a case of “sink or swim” for both populations.
Outliers, such as the solitary oaks standing as boundary markers amidst conifer blocks, or Baby Boomers who deployed a steadier strategy in life, found themselves quickly overshadowed and starved of sunlight or success. They withered, engulfed by the surrounding growth, exemplifying the brutal reality of inflationary natural & economic systems—pockets of limited deflation smothered by overarching capital growth.
Both the trees and the Boomers were locked in a relentless race skyward. Success, narrowly defined, was access to light or financial prosperity. Yet, this upward surge came with a hidden cost: an accumulating instability under their own weight, a liability grown too large to ignore by the time I entered the world, and entered the forest.
In these peculiar circumstances, the conifers and Boomers had adapted the only way they knew how, inflating in sync with their peers or facing isolation and decline. But beneath the single layer of prosperity, resources dwindled, and diversity suffered.
Even slight laggards are strangled and die in place, almost as a warning to the others never to delay. No other roots systems stand ready to hold the soil in place. It becomes a barren and even slightly acidic substrate to anything but a large Douglas or Grand Fir. So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The more time you spend around either problem, the more the parallels between environmental and economic fragility become apparent. The dominance of a single species or generation, left unchecked, has led to a presently precarious situation.
Past a certain undefined height, softwood monocrop trends towards fragility, which is to say they start to become negatively exposed to normal environmental pressures such as wind and rain. Over time, smaller and smaller pressures represent larger and larger risks to the system.
Even if a small pocket of conifers are removed, the fragility of the remaining body of trees is equivalently weaker, conforming to an inverse power law. When these small open spaces emerge in a plantation or a debt based financial system, in a light storm, like the breaking phalanx structure of a Spartan infantry unit – they all at once lose their shared strength and calamitously fail on top of each other.
Why? With the right combination of wet soil and high winds, neither cooperative system can support their own weight. Vast amounts of otherwise recoverable capital is lost. The cost and risk of clearing a site of already-windblown trees, vs that of an active harvesting operation while they stand in place, are simply colossal and cannot be understated. Just as a disorderly sale of distressed assets is far more damaging overall, than a managed and gradual disposal over time. Prices in nature and markets are both set at the margin.
How Things Stand and How They FallWhilst trees have no free will, human beings have the gift of sentience, and had this generation the wisdom and foresight to see the results of their collective behaviour in time to intervene and adopt a more sustainable and varied pattern of behaviour and wealth, we’d probably not be at the point we are today.
Realise, that this is no mere metaphor. The corruption of money has led directly to the poor decisions made in my forest throughout its chain of custody, and the mess it has since developed into, as it has in our broader societal affairs. Paper money led literally to paper trees.
Most other things have adapted around this fundamental distortion of money. It has diminished the landscapes of the countryside, just as it changed the fabric of our society. We see this everywhere.
Both situations have culminated into an unnatural and dangerous present condition, with a shared destiny. So as debt-based currency invariably returns to it’s intrinsic value of zero – so must conifer plantations return to their original state, in one of only two ways: a clear fell harvesting operation by mortal men of steady hand, and if denied or ignored: a crescendo collapse brought about by Mother Nature.
Forestry work is neither, regrettably, a simple matter of conducting an optimistic survey of the standing trees, and multiplying that unprocessed wet tonnage, by the roadside price of stacked sawlogs and concluding that you’re a multi-millionaire.
Nor then Mr and Mrs Boomer, is it either, a matter of taking the inflated prices of your houses and paper assets, then multiplying it by the total volumes of both, and deciding that you can all simultaneously retire at 55 with a ‘golden pension’. Selling it into a non-existent rising market and passing the remaining burden of your healthcare and welfare rights on to your already depressed children and dysfunctional grandchildren, is a complete departure from reason.
The apparently ‘priceless’ vertical tonnage of my own conifer stocks and the accumulated interconnected wealth of Baby Boomers are both increasingly fragile and erroneously valued. Every Baby Boomer will soon require liquidity from their stocks, bonds, and million-pound holiday homes, just to live, and are all going to hit the market in a very condensed timeframe, with predictable results.
I too started off from borderline-criminal levels of ignorance in land management as the incoming custodian of my land, so it seems to be for the average investor and wider society going into the final phase of debt-based money.
Until you grasp what is really going on, and realise your unavoidable personal exposure to it: day-to-day both systems look deceptively healthy. Something to preserve or even defend. But it is simply not so.
“You can ignore reality – but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality”, in either structure.
How to clear an unstable conifer forest
Exile or Death?
“When life gives you Dougs – become a Doug dealer” – Ben Gunn, circa 2020
Reader, you might have concluded by now, as I once had to, that softwood timber, like Baby Boomer wealth, is a grievously inferior store of natural value than is widely accepted. But that also, on further reflection, it might not be completely worthless, depending on your mindset and response.
The woodland was certainly not the store of value I imagined I’d bought, anymore than tacky suburban mansions, government bonds, failing services, high taxes, and stubborn inflation are what we’d hoped to inherit. Less still, what we intend to pass on to our own children. But if left to collapse on its own, the liability will overwhelm us anyway and avoidably ruin our lives, regardless of who is ultimately at fault or to blame.
The instinct of all younger generations, which I openly share, might be to feel betrayed, even cheated by our supposed betters. That sentiment is as morally valid as it is practically irrelevant.
For better or ill – this flawed inheritance is what are being offered to us, and the offer is final and non-negotiable. Abandon all hopes of divine justice, or even passing sympathy – no-one is coming to help you, anymore than anyone ran towards my troubles and got me out of them after I met that fateful day with my smirking forestry contractor.
For those who seek to inherit, “two roads diverge in a wood”. On the one hand, there is a tempting amount of homogenous capital in our society. On the other, it is of dubious end-value and is fraught with risk and fragility. The responsibility of ownership, if abdicated, will consequentially result in systemic failure. If handled carefully, the opportunity surely presents itself to create a modest surplus to carry forward and into our own dreams for the future.
Even with total consensus and broad societal support, an organised dismantling of these forests and markets, results not in a perfect interim outcome, but a tolerable one.
The problem was in the planting of so many trees in the same place, at the same time, and letting them grow for too long, at the expense of everything else around them, on faulty assumptions. Debt and inflated assets cannot be unwound over short periods of time anymore than a tree can shrink back into the ground the way it came out in the last year of its life. All else is consequential and derivative of this first error.
The present choice left to the direct and indirect heirs of the Baby Boomer Estate is clear. If you decide cut and run, perhaps to other countries with better prospects, to live in exile, you must also leave behind the opportunity that remains, but more importantly the moral right to claim ownership of the land. To the victor comes the spoils, but first you need the victory.
We already know my personal decision was to stay and fight. But my own decision was not primarily one of principle or moral obligation. Had the conditions been any less favourable, or the fight judged at the time to be any less winnable – I may well have returned my land to the same sales listings I found it on and passed the predicament to another owner, at a large, but survivable loss.
Instead, I chose voluntarily to commit myself to the problem. I was pushed beyond my previous limits, went on to face enormous physical and financial risks, operational and legal setbacks, and huge levels of further investment.
As Elon Musk observed of running startups, most of the time you can expect to be “staring into the abyss and chewing glass”, as it was for me in long and lonely spells along my path out of Hell.
I can say in honest reflection that my decision was worth it spiritually, and to a far lesser extent, financially. A lawyer told me when I was the legal owner of the deed, but I feel strongly now that I only developed a sense of real ownership in the process of rescuing the woodland from it’s alternative fate.
We may have expected societal rights to whatever the Boomers leave behind, but until we are prepared to engage with the danger and overcome it – we will not have truly earned our bright futures. I bought my land with paper and ink, but I earned the moral right to define its future with sweat, diesel, adrenaline, a few good men, and no small amount of good fortune.
I stop far short of recommending to anyone what they must do in the face of their own particular challenges. I’m no more or less motivated to engage in the looming economic battle ahead, for experiencing a personal victory of my own. I stand here now as one amongst you, in the shadow of our larger war to come, in two minds.
For some, the loss of what is left behind is far more than the cost of staying. For others it will be trivially cheap and sensible to exit, and start again elsewhere. Ultimately it’s not what you walk away from – it’s what you leave with, and that will be a different calculation for each of us.
Take note that if you do decide, in the course of your own life, to pick up the sword and join the fray, you will likely do it to a symphony of screeching resentment and invalid criticism, from vastly limited perspectives and sometimes pure malice or spite (often as not, by the very same people who you are digging out of a problem of their own making, and yet could never hope to fully understand). You’ll be labelled a squirrel killer. A selfish profiteer. Seen as nuisance. A villain. A pleb.
We the living, are to be judged by the fruits of what we leave behind, not what we started with, nor by the passive observers and what they might say about us along the way. Be single minded in what you have control or influence over. Be indifferent and stoic in all other matters. They are not your concern. Make a conscious decision either way and commit to it, absolutely, and come what may.
The time for us do each decide our path through the fiat “Dark Forest of Error” is fast approaching, and though time is short, it’s not so short that we can’t at least contemplate what could be possible if you do decide to take the path less travelled, wherever that might take you. And if having survived, once the forest cleared and the skies bright, consider what we are to do in the wake our triumph.
A freshly felled commercial woodland is a sight to behold. A once dark and impenetrable mass disguised the true terrain of the land, and what was once starving the sere ground of sunshine is removed and what is left is a clean and fresh canvas on which to create your own masterpiece. Choose to look through the intermediate Hell and see beyond, into Paradise…