British Columbia's Internationally Successful Forest Practices Greenwash Campaign

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by Richard Boyce
just returned home from a journey that has given me a new perspective of international perceptions of forestry in British Columbia.  I traveled to Sweden where I was interviewed for a job to shoot a documentary film, deep in the rainforest of Africa.

The Swedish director will spend 4 months filming Pygmies in the tropical rainforest of Congo. I won’t be joining her for a variety of reasons.  However, I learned how persuasive and effective the international green-wash campaign, launched by the BC government along with international logging corporations, has been at convincing the world that logging in BC is wonderful.
Island Lens #113 – December 17, 2008

It just so happened that the film director’s husband is a logger. Originally from France, Xavier worked in Africa for many years as a forester with large logging companies.  He now works for the government in Sweden, managing sustainable logging of public land.  The Swedish outlawed clear-cut logging years ago and it is illegal to cut down trees on more than a few acres at a time.

He used Goggle-Earth to show me the logging in Cameroon and Congo where he had worked.   He explained that the logging companies target specific species of trees which were cut down selectively.  Road building did much more damage to the wilderness than the logging, and they open up pristine rainforest to poachers who destroyed many endangered animal species as well as trees for firewood and building material.  From the satellite images, it was easy to find the maze of logging roads, but the forest seemed intact and was completely void of large clearings, other than occasional village sites.

Then I showed him Vancouver Island, which is completely covered by a complex patchwork of clear-cuts, that cover the entire land mass.  A seemingly endless maze of logging roads connect massive open clearings, combine with sprawling industrial and residential developments to take over the majority of the Island.  A few intermittent parks stand out as green wilderness in the checkerboard of destruction.

Xavier could not believe his eyes, and spent an hour zooming in on individual sites to confirm that what he was looking at was really logging in Canada.  He had been lead to believe that Canada had some of the best logging practices in the world, but confronted by the reality he was witnessing, he realized that British Columbia has archaic approaches to forestry.  I then showed him some of my video of logging on public land in old growth forests here on Vancouver Island, an area that is under the highest regulations afforded by the BC government, under the designation of ‘Special Management.’  Xavier was completely awestruck by the devastation and sheer scale of the clear-cuts.  He had never seen such wasteful and destructive logging operations in his entire life as a logger.

Congo and BC have very different rainforests that are both being destroyed by international corporations with little regards for local citizens.  In BC private logging companies log public land at the invitation of the ruling political party while regulations are monitored by industry. Very little of the profits reach the public and yet the citizens allow these practices to continue. In Congo the International Monetary Fund gave billions of dollars to the ruling dictator, with very little of this money reaching the public. Today the IMF wants its ‘loans’ back, but the money is gone so international companies are now cutting down the rainforest for cash, while the local population gains very little.

When I returned home, via the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, I was greeted by a sign kiosk stating: “British Columbia is a world leader in sustainable forest management, conservation and protection.” Below the heading: “British Columbia’s Forests – A World Leader in Forest Management,” the sign states: “An independent academic study confirmed that British Columbia has among the most stringent forest regulations in the world.  More than ¼ of the province’s forest are protected or under special management. Less than 1% of the forest is harvested each year – always promptly reforested with native species.”

I encourage you to include a bit of reality in your greetings to family and friends around the world.  Don’t let the myth continue, its time to face the truth. I wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice!  

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