The oft-repeated S-word can be cynical flim-flam

Malaspina Strait from Stillwater Bluffs, where forest meets seashore.

Malaspina Strait from Stillwater Bluffs, where forest meets seashore.

When a forest of say 75 acres is destroyed by clear-cut logging, eliminated are countless, perhaps thousands of birds, mammals and amphibians — from canopy-dwelling thrushes to tree frogs to bats and squirrels — and gone is the habitat that supported them. The sheer number of individual critters bumps up a few orders of magnitude when the insects, slugs, centipedes and spiders are counted. Then there are the micro-organisms in the millions, and billions of bacteria and similar life forms.

Now consider the plant life. Thousands of towering trees are executed and trucked far away to be converted to money and other useful things. Pulverized in this primary timber harvest are the epiphytic ferns, lichens, fungi and mosses which drape on, cling to and beautify the trees where they find moisture and sustenance for life. Ground down and ground up are the shrubs and berries of the under-storey and the wildflowers of the forest floor in their hundreds and hundreds of species. These plants of the forest have evolved by necessity to be shade-tolerant and moisture retentive.

British Columbia has the greatest diversity of plants in Canada. B.C. has up to 800 identifiable species of moss, alone. How many of them were growing in that 75 acre forest that is now the silenced and flattened landscape left behind by the BC loggers today? Could any but a very few survive the glaring sun and harsh exposure of an instant clear-cut? Nature will do her best to heal the wounds and restore a balance over years and years of time. But how many ‘crops’ can be harvested before a healthy forest cannot recover? How long can land subjected to take-it-all and no give-back endure the one sided equation? How can the destruction of an ecosystem be called sustainable forestry? Yet that’s what is claimed by the BC forest industry in the double-speak world we live in today.

It is time to put the term ‘sustainability’ in its proper context: buzzword of the decade. As such, it has a diminishing shelf life and one day it will be regarded as quaint and naive. Sustainability, as a concept, has caught the popular imagination, which is understandable, but it is a sort of inflated myth, destined to fall to earth as the uncertain future progresses. I’m not saying the notion is worthless; it’s just that a ‘sustainable’ plan of action or set of policies assumes a future level of stability or predictability that simply doesn’t exist. The skills most needed by an ever-changing society will be adaptability and a complex of survival strategies.


1 Response to “The oft-repeated S-word can be cynical flim-flam”

  1. 1 Gian March 20, 2009 at 09:32

    Thank you, Mr. Moore for your thoughtful Slowcoast entry!

    I think you appreciate that the task ahead is really daunting: how to “sell” an idea that doesn’t have a dollar sign at the beginning or at the end of it — and especially during a recession (oh my!)

    How do you put a value on the life of some moss, birds or a view?

    It’s sad to think that the only acceptable way our culture has come to preserve areas of great beauty and diversity is through eco-tourism: the making one area so rarefied in its being ‘untouched’ as to make it into a sort of spectacle; one that you can charge money to get to/into, and where the surrounding dollars that eco-tourists will spend at hotels/restaurants will pay for the loss of revenue. Even this is a hard sell. One solution is to by-pass relying on governments that will never be responsive to the ideals of real sustainability (from a previous blog: “the opposite of commitment is lip-service”) is to buy land and preserve it ourselves. That is just one small step along the way, but ultimately a cultural shift of values needs to happen… and your blog entry may be part of the cure: just simply drawing attention to the beauty that makes life worth living.

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