The War of the Woods has suddenly flared up again. There was a time not so long ago when I think most Canadians thought the debate was over. Protected areas sprung up across the Province culminating in the 13 percent of all landmass where it currently sits. The Great Bear Rainforest was protected and most people assumed the truce had finally come. Forest companies could now re-adjust and re-tool. Timber supply areas were finally stable and dependable, and the few mills that remained operating were upgraded to prepare for a more stable future.
How wrong could we have been? Suddenly, seemingly overnight the push for more protected areas has sprung back to life. Activists mixed the files: it is not just about protecting old growth trees, it is also about protecting Indiginous cultural heritage. Then along came climate activism. Suddenly Old Growth Forests and Deforestation became the buzz words of the year as well as measuring sticks by which we could measure “real climate action.” And as in most cases, the developing world has decided to enact policies that are based more on “leading by moral example” than tending to the gears of reality. The offenders are not found in the developed world.
The problem with good intentions is that everybody has them. Nobody on either side of a debate thinks they are the evil party. Well unfortunately, facts are not subjective. But how can you even attempt to have a factual debate on a topic that takes decades of both formal education and practical experience to understand? I will be honest, I am not hopeful. It is not the actual outcome of this new war that worries me, it is the low level of discourse. On one side, a highly developed forest industry with expertise and science. Unfortunately they are also funded by timber dollars. On the other, activists who act with mixed levels of sincerity, who often sacrifice facts for narratives that support their greater political cause.
This debate I can handle. But the problem is when people from the city get involved. It is utterly amazing how people who cannot even tell the difference between species of trees can act with such conviction on the advice of social agitators and activists. This is where the debate ends, and the mud wrestling begins. So before getting involved and taking sides please do the following exercise:
If you do not know what all of the above means, read up before joining the debate. Not all forests are Old Growth. Not all forests are naturally sustainable. Not all forests naturally burn, and some are doomed by fire. Carbon emissions are a net equation. And forestry is so much more complex than cutting down or planting trees. Also Canada harvests less than one third what Europe does per year over a much larger landscape yet Europe’s forests are net negative on carbon legers (they have virtually no old growth) while Canada’s forests are net emitters. And forests in our Parks are some of the worst examples of forest management you can find anywhere on the planet. It is time to ask questions and challenge narratives, not jump to conclusions.