Faith groups, First Nations, businesses, tourism operators, educators, health professionals, unions and others are rallying to send the government a message on February 25th.
WHO WILL BE STANDING UP FOR FORESTS at the United for Old-Growth event February 25th in Victoria? Not just your usual suspects. The organizers have amassed at least 190 organizations to sign on to their United We Stand Declaration. (There may be more by the time this is printed.) A close look at the list of signatories tells a very interesting tale.
Standing up for forests, we find faith groups, businesses, tourism operators, educators, health professionals, unions and more. Everyone is affected by climate change, and everyone knows it. They also know that BC’s old growth rainforests, the Amazon of the North, are world class at protecting us from climate change and its effects.
Why the businesses and unions? They know there can be no stable economy without a stable climate.
Why the health professionals? They see the health problems that climate change is already causing—deaths in heat waves, more frequent and severe childhood asthma due to wildfire smoke , deaths and injuries in floods and landslides from atmospheric rivers, mental health effects , pressure on the health care system…On the flip side, they know the health benefits of forests, with doctors prescribing time in nature in lieu of medication, the long known physical and mental health effects of forests now proven, many medicines derived from ingredients found in forests and many more still to be found as the forest canopy and soil subsurface are yet to be fully explored.
Even among the activist groups, there are tales to be told. Many of the groups are not even centred on forests or climate change. In particular, there are four signatories whose issue is peace. Why are they going to an old growth rally? Because climate change is already forcing mass migrations with accompanying international tension. As resources such as clean fresh water get scarcer, the risk of war becomes ever greater. Climate change is also a new reason to work for peace. Military spending (whether in peacetime or war) is responsible for vast GHG emissions.
Some of the signatories are multi-issue, broad-based groups. Greater Victoria Acting Together is a case in point. It’s a coalition of diverse member organizations—faith groups, frontline services, unions, post-secondary students, and a couple of climate justice/environmental groups. It works on a few issues at a time, the ones its members prioritize, currently Affordable Housing, Mental Health and Addictions, and Climate Justice. The Climate Justice Team has a Forestry Sub-Committee which itself has diverse membership, including someone whose family business is sustainable logging, someone who used to work in the oil and gas industry, a former social worker whose passion is a decent future for children and a former member of the National Ballet of Canada whose protest dances and flash mobs are part of the forest advocacy movement. The latter’s most recent work adds levity to a serious issue, inspiring and delighting with a dancing Flash Mob singing reworked lyrics to “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
About half the signatories are climate and/or environmental groups. Here too there is a tale to be told. Grassroots groups have sprung up everywhere. Parents have groups. High school students have groups. Seniors have groups. There’s even Music Declares Emergency! Everyone from Elders for Ancient Trees to The Tree of Life Nature Preschool. Villages, towns and cities around BC each have their own groups working hard to stabilize the climate, maintain biodiversity and keep the beauty in Beautiful BC.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is one of the initial signatories, and the Declaration demands “fulsome and immediate financial support for First Nations to implement logging deferrals and resilience planning…and compensation for any lost revenues and employment.” For many groups, including GVAT, it is crucial that forest protection be done in a way that respects Indigenous Rights and also provides a just transition for workers and communities.
The United for Old-Growth event reflects its broad support. The walk to the Legislature will be Indigenous-led and like a parade—a visual and auditory feast with musicians, giant puppets, people dressed as endangered species, surprise bursts of creativity as well as regular folks walking along. The rally will feature performers and speakers, including household names like David Suzuki.
February 25th, the date of United for Old-Growth, is Premier Eby’s one hundredth day in office. He promised to accelerate the protection of old growth within his first hundred days. At least 190 organizations throughout BC are calling on him to protect old growth NOW. Is he listening? Will he act?
Authors Jane Welton and Eric Doherty are the Climate Justice Team co-leads at Greater Victoria Acting Together, a coalition of over 25 member organizations with over 100,000 members from across Greater Victoria that work together to advocate for issues of common concern. https://www.gvat.ca/
The United for Old Growth march begins at 12 noon at Centennial Square, with a rally from 1:30-3:30 at the BC Legislature.
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