Giant Machinery Devours the Forest

What the Machinery Looked Like

Giant Machinery Devours the Forest

Giant machinery devours the forest, 1963, Humboldt County, California.
1963, Humboldt County, California.

During my life time, we have gone from celebrating as mighty machinery devours the forest in our domination of nature to weeping for the destruction it has caused in the midst of global warming. When my father, Harvey Richards, went into the northwest forests and lumber mills in the early 1960’s, he understood both views. As a machinist during World War II, he had installed gun turrets in war ships in the San Francisco ship yards. He knew the might of technology intimately.

From Domination of Nature to Disaster

As a photographer of forest destruction, he carried his youthful memories of the forests of Oregon in the 1920’s into logging centers in the 1960’s. His color photos taken in 1979, shown at the end of the gallery, show the giant machines handling smaller logs as the logging industry declined after the destruction of the old growth forests. He chronicled the transformation of technology from mighty enabler to cursed destroyer.

From Mighty Enabler to Cursed Destroyer

The process of bringing these photos to the internet has been challenging.  Seeing the images of logged out forests, of the destruction of ancient environments was sad, to say the least. Long pauses accumulated in the scanning process as my mind processed the images and my heart gathered the strength to return to them again and again. Slowly, I began to imagine my father focusing his eye on the almost surreal images of the logging industry in these years.  I found myself inspired by his determination and vision to look into the face of these earth shattering events as he preserved them on film.

We are locked in an economy that would sacrifice old growth forests for paper towels to use once in our kitchens and then throw away. The absurdity of this cycle is staggering. Our awareness, or lack of awareness, seems to be the glue that locks us into this wasteful economy. One thing is certain, the images cannot be ignored or forgotten.

Following the Buddhists injunction to invest in loss, I cannot look away from the sad historical legacy in these photos. I believe we will not stop the cycle of waste and economic madness until we see what it is doing and understand the reasons it must stop.  These photos help bring this process of understanding into being.

Logging Image Galleries:

Harvey Richards drove into the forests on logging roads and filmed the cutting and transporting of logs and the wastelands left behind. He photographed the logging mills and the rivers full of cut logs on their way to the mills, and the ships fully loaded with logs on their way to Japan where cutting down trees is illegal. His photo images are a unique resource showing the destructive path that corporate logging has left on the earth.

Machinery Devours the Forest

Forests grow slowly over the decades.  Trees grow deep roots, their leaves falling on the forest floor creating soil full of life and organic nutrients that support diverse populations of animals and plants.  Water falls during rains and seeps into the ground where it is held by the root systems and living organisms to be released slowly into streams and rivers that run all year around.  Carbon in the atmosphere aids the forest to grow and in turn the forest releases oxygen into the air.  

This cycle of growth has supported our living planet and human cultures for thousands of years. Over the past century, corporate interests with advanced technology have set upon our natural resources, as private owners or in National Forests, with a destructive logging practice called clear cutting.  This gallery presents photos by Harvey Richards taken in the 1960’s and 70’s that give a glimpse of the reality of what clear cutting does to a forest. Judi Bari characterized it as “cutting the lungs out of the earth.”

All images are copyrighted © Paul Richards 2001-2020.

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577;

Buy or license the use of these photos.

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