I am 70 years old and have a small farm outside of Victoria. I was a logger at Port Renfrew, a log scaler and a high school teacher. I helped persuade the Mike Harcourt NDP government to protect the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park.
I began working in the forest industry because I lost a bet in a bar. My buddy and I were in need of some cash and there was one opening for a chokerman. I lost the bet and had to work. I made more money than I had ever seen in my life. I worked a few months a year and went travelling for the rest. Then it paid for my university. Over 15 years I worked as a logger, a data processor of forestry reports, and as a log scaler measuring trees to determine the royalty payment from each one.
I was shocked even back then at the waste. Clearcutting sacrifices all the young trees so that the industry can cream off the highest value. A sustainable forest, selectively logged, has a life cycle of about 250 years. Our approach is much shorter.
We are converting thousand-year-old forests that produce tight-grain lumber into “fibre farms” with 75-year rotations, resulting in inferior lumber. With the current trajectory, we will have logged all the old-growth within three to five years.
We take no account of the damage to the soil and the rivers from erosion and compaction. As far as I know no studies have been done by the B.C. government of the impact of clearcutting on ecosystems. But we do know that old-growth trees clean water and nurture salmon as well as sink carbon. We know that they are havens for the biodiversity recipes that allow new regenerative forests to grow.
Allowing multinational corporations to continue with their rapacious practices means we are impoverished economically and environmentally and the remaining jobs will support far fewer people with much lower wages. One man on a feller buncher can take out as much wood as it took eight people when I started.
The government and industry philosophy is based on the belief that there are no moral constraints against domination and perpetual growth, and that competition is the basis of success. But there is so much evidence that cooperation, reciprocity and respect are at least as important for resilience and survival. As elders, it is our responsibility to tell a different story, one which reflects a 1,000-year ecosystem-wide view.
Premier John Horgan is duplicitous when he tells us he cares about the rights of the Pacheedaht elected council, but can’t find $347,000 to replace the money they might receive over the next three years in the revenue-sharing agreement with Teal Jones, who say they will make $20 million although other estimates are much higher. He didn’t listen to the West Moberly Nation and stop Site C, or the Blueberry Nation and stop fracking, or the Squamish or Kwakiutl people and conserve their old-growth. And what has it cost to have the RCMP, with heavy equipment operators, helicopter surveillance and the Canadian military to arrest the protestors?
I care so much about this that I am willing to get arrested, breaking the unjust law that says the logging can continue. Recently retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella reminded us that the rule of justice is at least as important as the rule of law, which has given us apartheid, slavery and colonization.
It is really unfair that the RCMP do not hesitate to arrest Indigenous youth, but I have engaged in obvious civil disobedience five times within plain sight of police and have yet to be arrested. Bad press to arrest old white men, I guess.
After requesting a meeting with my MLA, Lana Popham, her constituency assistant wrote: “In terms of the Old-Growth Panel Review, Minister Popham is not currently taking meetings with individual constituents on the matter.” What happened to representative democracy?
To the young people at Fairy Creek I say, “Bravo! Thank you! I am proud to be on your side”.
To the rest of us, I ask, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?”
Jim Pine is a member of Elders for Ancient Forests in Victoria.