Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, October 1, 2018. 

It is hard to try to change people’s minds even when the cause is more than worthy. Not when it comes to the material part though. There are marketing wizards out there designing strategies and using subtle tricks that make us act like puppets as we agree to buying things just because. Never mind what it takes to produce or manufacture a product, or the ultimate price for our lifestyle – pollution and destruction, sometimes not just of nature but human lives too. Our stores are filled to the brim and more is coming. That is not creating long-lasting happiness either; on the contrary.

For the most part, the opposite stands true when it comes to nature and our role in keeping it healthy and beautiful, be it land, air or water. Not for aesthetic purposes, but because our well-being and our future depend on it. At least, that’s what we tell our kids or the school does. Or both. But… we are hard to convince.

We have beautiful books about animals and nature, too many to count, yet so much of the real natural world is anything but happy as a result of how we run our business. We log excessively, overfish, overhunt, and conduct animal culls to balance it all out when it’s mostly our actions that create the imbalance. Entitlement is a scary beast and yet we let it live among us. We let it drive our actions which leads to us taking nature for granted.

At some point this summer I mentioned logging in a small area situated between Manning and Skagit Provincial Parks, a bit of an odd unprotected piece of what is not provincial park but it should be. You may have guessed: The ‘Donut Hole’, a 5800-hectare or so area of wilderness that does not have protected status like the parks surrounding it, due to a mineral claim. Some logging was done during the early 2000s but then it was stopped and the lower slopes became fully protected for the conservation of spotted owl habitat, according to the Wilderness Committee. During the summer of 2018 all of that changed.

Four cutblocks were approved for logging by BC Timber Sales, a branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Operations. Two cutblocks were logged this summer, two more to go. Unless stopped, this will go on. Orphan areas like that are vulnerable. The Donut Hole is important habitat for spotted owls (the lower slopes) and grizzly bear. Does it hold that much timber that nothing else matters?

To be clear, this is not an anti-logging piece. Selective logging is necessary; it employs people and helps build communities. Plus, we all use wood products. But logging in conservation areas is wrong. So is logging in old growth forests. Worse yet, the wood is exported for processing. The milling of our BC-logged wood should happen here and not overseas. That also helps employ people and reduces the amount of pollution generated by hauling logs for thousands of kilometers on roads and across the oceans.

Back to why our big trees and why our old forests matter: because they help slow down the pace of climate change alongside other ‘nature helpers’ such as the ocean. Because they keep animals safe and thriving (for example, half of Canada’s grizzly bears live in B.C.) Because that’s where we go when we need to recharge.

It’s a privilege that we should not take for granted. It obliges us to seek and apply better ways to manage our forests and sensitive habitat. Approximately 1900 species are deemed ‘at risk’ in British Columbia in some cases because of logging of pristine wilderness. Add to that the effects of climate change and other human activities, and the math looks ugly. It’s not a glamorous subject and it’s uncomfortable to comb through the facts and bring them to light. It’s humbling to see how destructive and reckless the human species can be. But we are a resourceful species and we can do better if the incentive is there. I believe the incentive is staring us in the face.

These last few months of raging wildfires, landslides and hurricanes have been scary. Yet we are appeased by positive or neutral or downright unimportant news, because the uncomfortable nature of environmental truth is not palatable. Trouble is, it will not go away either. It makes a world of difference when we attend to issues as they come about and opt to change our ways. Small changes can have big effects. They create hope. Not so when we put our heads in the sand and focus on the ‘positive’ only. That is the equivalent of running away from responsibilities.

The argument for continuous economic growth cannot exist alongside a healthy environment. We already know that but choose to challenge it nonetheless. Overconsumption and profit-driven activities without little or no consideration for possible consequences is not a way of life. Taking what we need only is where we should start. Choosing leaders who can bring good changes and an economy that supports people’s needs but encourages us all to appreciate nature too. There is no better gift we can give to ourselves and our children than an environment that keeps us healthy, body and mind. For that we have to make better choices.