David Broadland Posted May 16, 2020 Report Share Posted May 16, 2020 IN JANUARY 2020, Focus Magazine published my article “The forest-industrial complex’s Molotov clearcuts.” The story considered the evidence that the significant increase in the size of wildfires in BC—and the exponential increase in carbon emissions from them—might be partly a result of the growing area in BC’s interior that is either a recent clearcut or an area of young regrowth. I noted that the narrative created by scientists and forestry managers blamed this phenomenon on decades of “fire suppression.” In my story, I attributed that narrative to the “forest-industrial complex” which I described as “the forest-interested government agencies, industry, universities and media—that has led BC into the black-box carbon trap of exponentially-increasing emissions...” The written response to the story included some letters to the editor from writers who assumed the term “forest-industrial complex” was a smear of anyone involved in forestry in BC. Not at all. It was a recognition of a simple fact about forestry in BC: it’s an industry which sees the forest primarily, if not exclusively, as a source of economic benefit, and its current practices are based on the collective efforts of everyone involved in turning forests into wood products and energy, from the BC minister responsible for forests, the scientists who provide the research that informs policies made by government, through to the foresters and logging community that figure out how to cut down forests. Media that are unwilling to examine critically these relationships—which is part of their job description—automatically include themselves in the complex. The term “forest-industrial complex” comes from my understanding of the term “military-industrial complex,” which was coined by outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 1961 in a speech he made a week before leaving office. The ideas in that speech have become Eisenhower’s most remembered contribution to American political conversation, and they are worth revisiting. In that speech, Eisenhower observed that, in order to keep peace in the world, America had been “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” He warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Eisenhower continued, “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Eisenhower didn’t imply this growing relationship was nefarious in nature; he was saying it was inevitable, could be “disastrous” and that “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” was needed to watch over the relationship. Eisenhower specifically included universities receiving funding from governments to do industry-related research as being a part of the military-industrial complex. Sixty years later, that “meshing” of industry and government (the military is a government agency, after all) has spread—some might say metastasized—to all areas of government, including here in BC. The relationship between governments and pharmaceutical companies, oil and gas companies, hard-rock mining companies and forest industry companies have all become dangerously codependent, often putting non-economic values at risk. In this province, forest industry companies have invested heavily in their relationships with government, including donating to political parties and lobbying those parties once they are in government. In turn, rules that govern the forest companies tenure and operations on public lands have, over the years, shifted away from a higher level of public interest to a lower level, and closer and closer to defacto privatization of Crown forests. As with the military industrial complex in the US, BC’s forest-industrial complex is supported by a largely uncritical media and educational institutions that do forestry research and train people to operate the forest industry. Just one example: UBC’s Faculty of Forestry has produced many of the top managers of BC forest companies. Forest companies hire graduates of UBC’s Faculty of Forestry, not its Department of Philosophy. We at FOCUS think the relationships between government, universities, the media and the forest industry in BC needs to be more fully explored and understood. To that end, we open this first forum in the Forests section of our forums: Does a Forest-Industrial Complex exist in BC? If so, how can “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” to paraphrase Eisenhower, compel the “proper meshing” of the huge industrial and government machinery of forestry so that it doesn’t destabilize the physical environment. We welcome your comments, and start with two forest stewards that don’t think there’s a problem... Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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