By Charlie Robinson, Beechworth Urban Landcare & Sustainability
I love chainsaws. Sure, they’re dangerous, noisy, and usually have two stroke motors which can be unkind to the environment. However, they do provide the user with access to sustainable sources of energy and, more than any other internal combustion engine I can think of, have a positive return on investment. For an outlay of around a thousand dollars, you can recoup the purchase price within a few weekends of hard work and then look forward to many years of reliable service. My last chainsaw provided me with firewood for nearly twenty years.
The looming peak oil crisis does call into question the viability of this amazing labour saving device and I have considered alternative methods of obtaining firewood.
My father was a professional timber-getter during the Great Depression and so was particularly adept at using the double-handed cross-cut saw. Figuring this to be an eco-friendly alternative to a possibly-obsolete chainsaw, I purchased one of these saws at an antique and collectable store and then had it professionally sharpened. Then it was off to a neighbour where a tree had fallen across her access road.
Approaching our first fallen log with a bravado magnified by ignorance we attacked the hapless timber with gusto expecting our blade to fall through the log like teeth through a pavlova. It would be an understatement to say that our efforts would not reward us with a Finals position at the Royal Easter Show. After a few minutes of hard slog and colourful language there were a few shreds of sawdust to show for our efforts.
Some learned friends advised that we needed to “set” the saw teeth and to pour lard on the timber along the proposed line of cut. These strategies have yet to be implemented and I will notify readers of our success, or otherwise, in a later article.
Despite this temporary setback, our experience does provide some insight into the future implications for oil depletion in our community. While global oil is still plentiful, all the easy supplies have been extracted leaving more risky, and hence expensive, reserves available for exploitation.
While I’m not suggesting that everyone replace their chainsaw with a crosscut saw, I would recommend that we all consider how we are going to cope with transport, obtaining food, accessing work, and all the other tasks we currently take for granted when oil becomes financially out of reach.