Voicing the forest, the silent genocide of the last mammoth trees
An apology in the form of musical offering
As summer is fast approaching, a vast majority of you fellow Canadians will start planning your summer vacations. Many of you will join the millions of tourists who travel each year to Vancouver Island to enjoy its West Coast paradise: Provincial Parks with giant trees and coastal beaches both filled with rich biodiversity.
Tourism on Vancouver Island generates a whopping $2.2 billion annually, making tourism the first or second economic drivers. Point blank: people LOVE the Island and are willing to pay thousands of dollars to prove it!
This is precisely why, although a French Canadian, I moved to BC sometimes after graduating from The Juilliard School. I wanted to express my art in the most beautiful scenery the country had to offer; however, two years later, on International Forest Day, you can find me up a desolate logging road playing my cello and talking to the loneliest tree in the world. I felt compelled to make a musical offering to Big Lonely Doug, Canada’s 2nd largest Douglas-fir tree which his left standing, against all the odds, in the middle of a massive 2012 clearcut. I also felt compelled to apologize to the indigenous communities of Vancouver Island who have been severely impacted by the logging industry.
Insatiable greed and excessive logging have disfigured the Island to the point that except for the main highway that leads millions of people a year to Tofino for tourism, there is hardly a countryside road to drive on, or a mountain slope to look at that does not show multiple severe signs of clearcutting. This is truly heartbreaking and reproofs the overall state of the Island.
Now it’s time for me to voice through my cello, the silent genocide that is unfolding in BC’s forests at the complacency of our government.
Did you know that 34 soccer fields of old growth forests are cut every single day and that only 10% of the biggest trees are left on Vancouver Island, mostly without protection? While scientists say that an ecosystem below 30% of its initial range is at risk of falling into extinction, environmentalists argue that up to 90% of Vancouver Island old growth forests have been logged. If you do the math, you find out that we had about 10 years left before there is no more old growth to protect out of the provincial parks.
Our government only thinks in terms of dollars and does not appreciate what is priceless, such as an 800 years old tree, or even a 1900 years old tree (which is the oldest tree found in BC, an ancient yellow cedar tree that was logged on the Sunshine Coast in the 1980’s). The falling of a legacy tree should bring us all to tears the same way the burning of an 800 years old iconic cathedral does. Why don’t we have laws that recognize and protect our 1000-year-old Heritage Trees but have some to protect Heritage Buildings that are a mere 100 years old?
While BC is still falling short from Canada’s environmental Target no. 1, to protect by 2020 at least 17 % of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10% of marine and coastal areas; it has nonetheless announced that more than 1,300 hectares of clear old-growth cuts are next in line for slaughter sending us flying blind into terminating the old-growth web of life.
We should not be lured into a 4 years commitment from the government, or a 20 years project from the logging companies, but should join David Suzuki in saying:
Get lost, I’m only interested in a 500 years logging project! We want to protect our future and our children’s children’s future!
Old growth forests are one of the most precious natural resources we have as Canadians. Did you know that the old growth rain forests can store over 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, one of the highest rates on earth? They are our no.1 best ally against climate change, acid rain and acidification of our oceans.
Did you know that although BC has 1,900 species and subspecies at risk of extinction, it still does not have endangered species legislation? Did you know that habitat loss and fragmentation is the number one threat to species in Canada and logging its main generator?
Indigenous communities who live off of the land and need the old growth forests to be left undisturbed for their social and economic livelihood have an inherent right to do so. Although the Province is legally obligated to consult and accommodate First Nations, where required, on land and resource decisions that could impact their Indigenous Interests, they too often are denied their fundamental rights.
The indigenous communities have paid all of us an enormous service while fighting the logging industry tenaciously on Haida Gwaii Island as well as initiating the protests in Clayoquot Sound. It is thanks to their initiative that those areas have been spared – and can now be enjoyed by the annual flock of tourists – which ironically contributes little to the Native’s economy. In the end, it is essential that the general public understand that this is not Crown land or touristic land, this is indigenous land!
Although trees are considered a renewable resource, old growth forests are irreplaceable in a single lifetime. It is important to understand that the ideal habitat for biodiversity is an untouched old growth forest. Second growth and third growth forests are not hospitable to biodiversity since they are managed into a monoculture of tightly condensed trees to facilitate their harvest. Also, its soil is, at the requirement of the province, sprayed with glyphosate to make way for coniferous trees.
The replanted forests are, therefore:
- biological desert with toxic soil
- Highly wildfire prone
- And many times over less efficient at absorbing carbon.
Biological desert with toxic soil:
It took thousands of years for the rainforest to build one of the most fertile topsoil on Earth, at a rate of one inch per 500 years; however, due to logging, it is now subject to erosion on a 30 to 80 years cycle, with each new cut. Parallelly, glyphosate, a probable carcinogen herbicide is sprayed on the soil to ensure that fire-resistant aspen or birch trees do not compete with the valuable conifers in the regrowth areas.
This action is taken at the cost of the safety of the forests since aspen and birch trees are capable of resisting and even stopping wildfires. Over the last three years, 42,531 hectares of B.C. forest have been treated with glyphosate which poisons the soil and its plants for the duration of its lifetime.
In the last two years, B.C. has spent more than $1 billion fighting wildfires that have burned more area than the previous 25 years combined. If you think that more logging is the solution to wildfires, see link below for demystifying those myths! (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181113-five-myths-about-wildfires)
Raw log export:
It is hard to imagine a public complacent with this harsh reality without making significant economic gains from it. But in the past 10 years, deregulation from the Forestry Ministry have led the industry to close 27 % of BC forestry jobs. That is 22 000 good paying jobs in sawmills and pulp and paper mills.Since 1997, over 100 mills have been closed. Over 6 millions cubic meters of raw logs were exported in 2016. As the export of raw logs continues, mills keep closing and jobs keep leaving.
It is my hope that together, we can shed enough light to significantly reduce this crime against the environment. We cannot let the last mammoth trees be logged. We have to protect the old growth forests because what we do to our environment, we ultimately do to ourselves. The old growth forests are our no.1 ally in fighting climate change and protecting endangered species from extinction. Also, those forests and the biodiversity they host are sustaining the indigenous communities. The old growth forests are on the verge of disappearing from Vancouver Island and they are not even ours to sell. We can choose how this ends. See the link below for actions you can take right now
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