It was on a very rainy early day of spring that, being half-way through the book beautifully titled ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2016), I sank into that state of loving what I was reading, being intrigued by what I was learning, and at the same time feeling saddened by what is revealed if you are to take a peek at the way trees are cared for in our province.
On a recent trip to a cabin near Bridge Lake, we talked to the host about the same. The pitiful state of affairs in the area. The local school was closed because the jobs disappeared when the mill closed. Other businesses went down with it, which, as you’d guess, created a chain of events that culminated with a plethora of properties for sale, a closed school and people migrating towards greener pastures.
A trip to Vancouver Island two summers ago revealed shockingly large areas that have been clear-cut. The cosmetic strip alongside the road almost makes you miss the lifeless areas where healthy old trees once stood. If you care to look up the state of logging on the island, you might be as stunned as we were when we discovered that almost 90 percent of the old-growth forests there have been logged.
During a family trip to Victoria we got to see a peaceful protest in front of the legislature, aimed to protect another old-growth forest scheduled for logging, the Walbran Valley forest. You don’t have to be a hippie or a tree-hugger to realize that losing forest ecosystems is not a positive thing. Not even for the local economy, as it turns out.
Now you may wonder what the aforementioned book has to do with the sawmills, logging and the BC economy. A lot. Personally, I do not need to be convinced that old-growth forests need to be preserved for many reasons. Reading the scientific reasons that only strengthen the common-sense thinking, and realizing, chapter after chapter, that present-day logging done in BC is the very enemy of what ensures the life of a healthy forest ecosystem (a vision for the future included), the sole question that surfaced as I reached the end of the book was: Why?
Why would our provincial government allow for mutilation of forests without employing what researchers now know about the forests; the importance of saving ‘mother trees’ as well as disrupting as little as possible of the forest ecosystem by logging selectively, which translates into healthy forests that can withstand climate change, disease and pest challenges.
That our precious forests are being clear cut without even maintaining a roster of forestry jobs in the province, and instead raw logs are being exported in quantities that exceed the power of many people’s imagination. As of 2003, logging companies are no longer obligated to have an attached sawmill. I’ll let you think about what that means for the people who were employed in the existing ones, many of which are now closed.
Approximately 6.3 million cubic meters of raw logs were exported last year from BC, and a total of 26 million cubic meters of raw logs shipped out of the province between 2013 and 2016, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). More than during any four-year period in the history of our province, the same source stated.
That last quantity, if translated into money, hovers at around $3 billion worth of logs. Over the last decade, 22,400 jobs have been lost due to the said process, according to the CCPA. Somehow, when the equation contains things such $3 billion revenue from raw logs export, over 22,000 jobs lost, and appalling rates of child poverty throughout BC, especially in the areas where the local economy tanked due to closing of sawmills… the wrongness of it hits you in the face like a muddy, stinky spray. Really, how could that be?
Back to the book. It invites to more than learning about trees. It challenges what we know about trees and forests, and how we should care for them if we care about this world and the future generations that will inherit it. If we take our kids into the woods to see the trees up-close, and if we teach them about the magic of intact forests and the need to preserve them, they will get to see that a tree is not just a tree but a small part of a big world that we are also a small part of. Interrelated, interconnected, interdependent. Simply being because something else exists. It’s called humbleness.
It invites to more learning, to gratefulness, to living in a way that puts people and the planet first.
If every forestry person would read that book or watch what UBC-based Dr. Suzanne Simard shares about the preservation of ‘mother trees’ and the risks of second-growth forests, (a remarkable TED talk), that can help us all have a good shot at a better future. Either way, something has to change, and soon.
With so much of our forests taken for granted so far, and so much of that ecosystem destroyed or partially destroyed trough clear cut logging, the future we’re racing towards risks to become bleak and depressing, environmentally speaking. We have the knowledge that can help us see the wrongness of today’s logging reality in our province, and we have a chance to change things on election day on May 9. Yes, there are some green voices among the candidates’.
Make your vote count. Be the Lorax, why not? Our forests need as many as are willing to sign up for the job. If you’ve ever taken a deep breath under the canopy of old trees in the heart of a forest and felt instantly and sublimely transformed, you’ll know that standing for the trees is the right thing to do.