Elmer's English 304 Magazine


Salvaging British Columbia's Rainforests

by Elmer G. Wiens

In "The Nature of Protest: Constructing the Spaces of British Columbia's Rainforests," David Rossiter scrutinizes Greenpeace's Great Bear Rainforest campaign to transform the logging activities of the forest industry and the land use policies of the provincial government. Rossiter claims Greenpeace advances "representations of nature" that resonate primarily with residents of major urban centres (147). His analysis of letters to the editor of the Sun and Province suggests that opposition to logging practices partitions into urban and rural locales. While urban residents tend to value the rainforest for its aesthetics, separating work and nature, rural inhabitants tend to value the rainforest for its economics, finding both work and recreation compatible within nature (148-50). In its campaign, Greenpeace contrasts images of untouched, beautiful forests with logged, unsightly landscapes, and situates Natives within its perception of nature as a "pristine" domain (151-58). Rossiter accuses Greenpeace of environmental colonialism since some First Nations intend to develop lands re-territorialized through land claims agreements (154).

Greenpeace wants to preserve a significant share of the old growth forest within the Great Bear Rainforest, owned collectively by the citizens of British Columbia. The provincial government allocates logging rights through tenure agreements with private companies who obtain favourable policies and administrative measures through powerful lobbying associations, such as the Council of Forest Industries and the Coast Forest Products Association. To counter these vested interests, Greenpeace pitches its campaign at citizens who express their sympathy by voting in the fifty urban electoral districts of B.C. One can regard Greenpeace's campaign positively with respect to First Nations. If aboriginal people weigh the advantages to the fishing and tourism industries of a moratorium on regressive logging practices, they might agree with Greenpeace's objective. Moreover, present-day entitlements of First Nations to timber represent a small fraction of the entitlements of international industry giants, such as Weyerhausser and International Forest Products.

In "In The Shadow of Red Cedar," Wade Davis presents an ethnobotanist's first-hand account of the forest industry's devastating logging practices in the temperate rainforests of the west coast of North America (215-24). Davis is particularly concerned with clearcutting, a process in which almost all trees are removed from vast logging sites that may comprise entire valleys and mountain slopes. He emphasizes that workers in remote logging shows do not identify with the land or region they denude of trees (218). Typically, loggers fell trees to the edge of streams, with little regard for the effects of erosion on the habitat of fish, birds, animals and plants (209). Such logging disrupts the complex relationships among a forest's species. For example, the destruction of salmon spawning streams threatens the survival of the grizzly bear and other animals, and endangers the livelihood of fishers and Natives of coastal communites.

Following the last ice age, the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest emerged under "unique climate conditions" into a complex diversity of life anchored by coniferous trees (208). If these trees are logged, it is unknown whether these "extraordinarily complex ecosystems" will regenerate, even with modern silviculture (221). Biologists have only recently "begun to understand and chart the dynamic forces" and relationships that bind these forests (209). The Great Bear Rainforest links human beings to an earlier age when conifers dominated Earth's plant life, an exceptional situation (208). With its lobbyists, the forest industry maintains political and bureaucratic discourses of forests permitting egregious logging practices without regard to their environmental effects. By countering the political hegemony of the forest industry, Greenpeace and its allies are important players in the discourses constituting the contested future of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Works Cited

Davis, Wade. The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998: 207-24.

Rossiter, David. "The Nature of Protest: Constructing the Spaces of British Columbia's Rainforests." Cultural Geographies 11 (2004): 139-64.

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