Defending Nature is Self-Defense

Things are really heating up at Fairy Creek. CTV News reports that a fight broke out between loggers and protestors today in which a protestor and a police officer were injured. The police also maintain that a vehicle with three protestors in it attempted to go around a checkpoint by driving into the ditch. In the process of becoming unstuck and driving off an officer was struck. Fortunately, the resulting injuries were not serious.

According to the news article, 403 people have been arrested todate for blockading the clear-cutting of the last stand of old growth on Southern Vancouver Island. Of these, 27 or more have been arrested more than once.

“Of the total number arrested, 298 were for breaching the injunction, 84 were for obstruction, 10 were for mischief, two for breaching their release conditions, four for assaulting a police officer, one for resisting arrest, one for counselling to resist arrest and one for public intoxication.”

There has been a concerted effort by the organizers to keep the protests and blockades peaceful and non-violent but as the confrontation intensifies, all parties are becoming easily provoked.

Meanwhile the chief and council of the Pacheedaht Nation on whose traditional unceded territory this battle is taking, has issued a second request that the protestors leave. That request was “politely refused” the same day by an 82 year old Pacheedaht elder whose English name is Bill Jones.

Now here’s a very brave man. Daring to speak out against the proposed logging and to align with the protestors has put him at odds with the chief, council and some of the members. Not a comfortable thing to do in a small community.

What’s interesting about Jones is he’s a former logger himself. So what caused him to come to the defense of the ancient trees found in the area around Fairy Creek.? It goes way, way back to his grandfather who would paddle up the San Juan River to Fairy Lake and from there walk up Fairy Creek to bathe, pray and meditate.  He would frequently remind Bill:

“You go up there to the forest. You do not cut it down. And you go there and be quiet. You pray and meditate and ask the forest what you can do — and then you come home.”

To his grandfather, the thousand year old giants that flourished there were sacred and to be protected from harm. Jones has seen first-hand the destructiveness of large-scale clearcut logging and he’s determined to defend those trees and the old growth forest they are a part of.

And he’s not alone in this cause. Many of those protesting the logging of the old growth at Fairy Creek as well as elsewhere in the province, share a similar worldview. Myself included.

We get that everything is deeply interconnected and that the harm being done to these ancient trees is harm being done to us. Clearcutting turns old growth forests into sources of carbon which contribute to climate change.

Wildfires, drought, flooding…the impacts of climate change are everywhere around us and they’re becoming more frequent, longer and intense. The little village of Lytton was almost completely burned to the ground by wildfire in late June after five days of record-smashing heat wave. The wildfire swept through the day after the temperature in the village nearly topped out at an astounding 50C. 

Continuing to clearcut old growth forests in the midst of the climate emergency is, quite frankly, insane. 

The harm done by clearcutting old growth forests runs much deeper. Speaking just for myself, I feel it vicerally as an attack on me. My sense of self, of who I am , fundamentally  includes these trees and forests, even though I’ve never seen these particular ones. I suspect that many of the other defenders feel the same.

To us, defending nature is self defense. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Wetland Day Feb. 2, 2021

 
All over the planet, wetlands are being degraded and destroyed faster than the Amazon rainforest.
 
Here in Canada, Ducks Unlimited estimates that our country has lost as much as 70% of it’s wetlands. In parts of the prairies, that percentage is as high as 90%. Like the prairies, BC’s coastal wetlands have also been hit hard by human development. Estimates of the loss in this region range  between 60 – 70%.
 
Wetlands are not waste lands. They provide countless ecological services for free, such as water purification, flood protection, and wildlife habitat. These functions could save governments and taxpayers millions of dollars in building new or repairing existing infrastructure such as water treatment plants or dike systems.
 
There are also strong moral, ethical and even spiritual reasons to protect and restore wetlands.
 
The following short documentary, which I produced five years ago, underscored the urgent need for farmers and the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to get much more serious about engaging in this vitally important work.
 
It was broadcast by Shaw Community Stations in those three provinces on this day.
 
It’s message is just as relevant today as it was five years ago.
 
I hope you enjoy it.

Parks and Climate – A Conversation with Bob Sandford, Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

As noted in a previous blog, I’m assisting with efforts to move Premier Horgan and his majority government to restore funding and staffing for BC Parks. He has said that dealing with climate change is a top priority for his government. Taking him at his word, a number of organizations are making the case that parks and protected areas should properly be seen and treated as a vitally important components of any climate change strategy.

I believe this approach has huge potential to be successful. And so, recently I set up a Zoom conversation with my friend, colleague and intellectual foil, Bob Sandford

Bob and I go back quite a ways, at least 20 years. We met while I was gathering research for my book about the loss of ecological integrity in our country’s national parks. Both Bob and I started our professional careers as park naturalists with what was then the National Parks Branch but now known as Parks Canada. One of things we share in common is our passion for parks and protected areas. 

Bob also happens to be the Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United NatIons University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. He’s a highly respected and much sought after expert on the interplay between climate change and water.

What follows are a series of sound bites I’ve lifted from our conversation which I hope you’ll find interesting and informative.