Premier John Horgan meets with Interfor employees at the company’s Castlegar sawmill, March 23, 2019. (John Boivin/Castlegar News)

B.C. VIEWS: Urban environmental ‘emergency’ routine wearing thin

Forests, killer whales stubbornly defy predictions they are dying

“Everybody wants to save the Earth. Nobody wants to help Mum do the dishes.” That’s how U.S. humourist P.J. O’Rourke summed up the emerging green politics in his 1994 book, All the Trouble in the World.

That statement rings truer today than it did 25 years ago, as urban feel-good gestures and emotion-driven protests replace old-fashioned facts and hard work to pick up litter, plant trees or take plastic packaging back to the store that sold the items.

It has been another tough week for the B.C. forest industry, as it deals with the long-expected decline in Interior log supply after widespread mountain pine beetle impact, continued punitive tariffs orchestrated by U.S. competitors, and the NDP government’s steeply increased stumpage on coastal B.C. logs. A wave of layoffs and lumber mill shutdowns is shaking rural communities.

So what was all over our urban media? Another tired, orchestrated fundraising stunt staged by Sierra Club B.C. at 17 strategically chosen MLA offices around the province. TV covered the handiest one, in front of NDP Environment Minister George Heyman’s office in B.C.’s biggest and oldest permanent clearcut, a place called Vancouver.

There, a terrified young woman who appeared to be of high school age urgently warned TV cameras that old-growth logging has to stop because of the “climate emergency.” Perhaps her education hadn’t got to the question of what sequesters more carbon dioxide: milling a mature, decadent tree into door frames and planting two new trees, or leaving the old tree to fall and rot?

I’ve written before about the vast protected areas in B.C., and the tactics of professional protesters to set up at the edge of each one and declare it’s not enough. I’ve reported from an illegal logging conference in Beijing, where issues like high-grading and then burning tropical rainforests to clear land for “conflict palm oil” plantations are finally being tackled.

When it’s not fighting the “tar sands,” Rainforest Action Network is fighting the good fight in places like Indonesia. There are real environmentalists out there, as there are in B.C., quietly cleaning up salmon creeks and dealing with the decades of forest fire suppression that have left our province so vulnerable to devastating wildfires.

NDP Forests Minister Doug Donaldson had to respond to the latest Sierra Club stunt, because that’s all the media want to talk about. He referred to the closure of the Vavenby sawmill near Clearwater in the B.C. Interior, the latest in a series of temporary and permanent shutdowns that have put hundreds of people out of work.

Doing Sierra Club’s bidding would force more people out of work, particularly on Vancouver Island, Donaldson said.

The Sierra Club organizer in Campbell River put a different spin on her anti-logging message. B.C. Timber Sales, a provincial agency, auctioned cutting rights for $13.2 million to a company owned by Langley-based San Group, which is also investing in mills in Port Alberni and the Kootenays.

The Sierra spokesperson recycled claims that silt runoff from this North Island cutblock threatens an orca rubbing beach and the kayak business that depends on it.

This urban legend has been studied repeatedly by provincial biologists since the 1990s, when Sierra and its ilk created the logging protest industry in B.C. They found that orcas have moved to different beaches due to natural erosion in the area, which gets its share of winter storms.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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