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Ben Barclay

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  1. The RCMP’s continued flouting of the BC Supreme Court ruling on exclusion zones corrodes faith in the justice system. ON A LOGGING ROAD NEAR ADA-ITSX/FAIRY CREEK watershed, an RCMP police sergeant and a forest defender are holding hands, with tears in their eyes, having a deep conversation about civil liberties, and the price of democracy. They each share the most intimate moment about their family histories. Mist is a middle aged woman who feels that ruthless deforestation has turned her province into a tinderbox. She feels responsible, as an older person, to “do something.” “The Sergeant” is an RCMP officer, whose job is to enforce a BC Supreme Court injunction against citizens interfering with active logging in TFL-46. The Sergeant wants to know why Mist is so determined to cross the police line and get arrested. She replies, “My Jewish ancestry contains generations of survivors, who fought hard and took tremendous risks. If they didn’t have a tradition as justice fighters, I wouldn’t be here.” Mist, on far left, with Lady Chainsaw, and members of the RCMP (RFS photo) The Sergeant softens. “I came to Canada from a war-torn country, where members of my family were raped and murdered. All the ‘protest’ we were allowed was to go and light candles outside the door of the church.” Mist and the Sergeant share a long, quiet moment together. Mist says: “I’m sorry, I’m deeply sorry—but how did that work out for you, just lighting candles? If I were to go Downtown and light a candle, and wait for the wheels of justice to turn, all of the ancient forests would be liquidated.” “Understood,” says the Sergeant. “How can I stand by and watch the insanity of clearcutting ancient old-growth forests in the midst of a climate emergency and biodiversity collapse? In Canada, we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How can I not try to use them?” “Understood. Understood.” “Officer, the RCMP are complicit in the liquidation of the very last old growth watershed. Look me in the eye and tell me whether you don’t think protecting the last 3 percent is reasonable?” “Yes, saving the last 3 percent is reasonable, but you’ve made your point. Why can’t you just protest outside the exclusion zone?” Exclusion zone? Mist and the Sergeant are miles away from active logging, at an RCMP roadblock. The RCMP have been using an arbitrary series of “exclusion zone” checkpoints as a nuisance tactic to stop media, lawyers and citizens from witnessing the arrests of tree sitters and other blockaders. The tactic has been incredibly successful, as it forces blockaders to hike many kilometres in to even approach active logging. Without the public there to support them or witness police action, camp after camp gets isolated and rolled up by the RCMP tactical squad, and hectare after hectare of old growth falls to the saws. Normally, exclusion zones are a police privilege used to keep the public safe at disasters, and allow officers a safe place to operate. A reasonable exclusion zone in TFL-46 would be 10 metres back from Justice Verhoeven’s “50 metres from active logging”—not 10 kilometres. For Mist, the whole legal process lost all credibility when the RCMP started using the zones to circumvent enforcing the injunction as laid out by Justice Verhoeven, which specifically stated that citizens have “rights of public access, and the right to participate in lawful protest”. “Why don’t you make the whole Province an exclusion zone, except a one-foot square in my kitchen, for me to stand in with a cardboard placard?” The Sergeant looks down. He knows the zones are unreasonable, but his boss will fire him if he doesn’t follow the instructions. She takes a step forward, and takes his left hand in her right, and holds it for five minutes. The two of them stand there in silence, trying to find a dignified way forward. Mist says, “I want you to know I am so so sorry about what happened to your family, and if I had been there, I would have stood in front of them to protect them.” The Sergeant’s voice cracks, and he glances up and says: “Thank you.” Their eyes hold each other. For a moment, it all seems to hang in the balance. He takes a stick, and draws a line in the dusty road. “Please, this is your last chance, will you go back, just behind this line. Please.” Mist puts her arms out and says “Cuff me.” A moment later, she is locked in a paddy wagon for crossing an imaginary line. On what charge is she arrested? None. She will not be charged. The defenders call this practice “catch and release.” The lawyers call it “unlawful arrest.” The RCMP know full well that a charge of breaking the injunction 10 kilometres from active logging will not hold up in court. It might even get them held in contempt of court, but we will never find out, because catch and release also robs citizens of their legal right to appear before Justice Verhoeven, and tell him how the RCMP are making a mockery of his injunction. Indigenous protesters face down RCMP on logging road near Fairy Creek. Canada needs a feedback loop, so judges can keep an eye on how their court orders are being enforced, but we don’t have a process for that. Instead, we have 500 forest defenders spending long, hot days in paddy wagons, talking about how they feel about all this. Forest defenders feel that the laws of our country are being twisted and abused, not even for any public good, but so corporations can make obscene profits. They feel that the RCMP are acting like vigilantes. The consensus of the entire old-growth protection movement, is that “TFL-46 has become a police state.” Are we trying to save the last old growth, or democracy? WHILE MIST AND THE FOREST DEFENDERS continue to light their candles, the wheels of justice turn, ever so slowly. 150 arrests later, on July 20th, BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson rules that “The RCMP’s geographically extensive exclusion zones and checkpoints are not justified.” He clarifies that the RCMP may only arrest and remove people who actually violate the injunction by approaching within 50 metres of active logging, and states that “important civil liberties were being compromised by the RCMP’s enforcement actions.” But the trees keep falling, and the paddy wagons keep filling. Between Mist’s arrest, and Judge Thompson’s statement, an area twice the size of Nanaimo is clearcut, and millions of tonnes of carbon are pumped into the atmosphere, that the forests of BC would have captured, had they been left standing. Lytton sets the record for Canada’s hottest temperature, and burns to the ground. Seventy percent of the oysters off the Sunshine Coast cook in their shells. During the worst fire season in history, the forest defenders ask for a logging “cease fire,” and are refused. Premier Horgan continues to hide behind a wall of silence. Greta Thunberg urges him to pass the recommendations of his own old-growth panel. No reply. BC’s world-renowned forest ecologist Dr Suzanne Simard offers to show him how to protect old growth and create jobs. No reply. The exclusion zones are still being used, and the trees continue to fall. AUGUST 9th ROLLS AROUND—the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It’s also the one-year anniversary of the blockade, and forest defenders flock to Victoria to hear Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones, Dr Suzanne Simard and many others speak. After a year of living in tents, the defenders want to connect with the 85 percent of British Columbians who agree with them. A hot bath would be nice too, maybe an ice cream, and a day off! The rally/celebration at the Legislature on August 9, 2021 (photo by Leslie Campbell) The RCMP use the opportunity of the small camp presence to drop SWAT teams at three camps, to destroy people’s property, and arrest citizens for, well, who knows? Perhaps camping without a permit? The officers read out Justice Verhoeven’s injunction as justification for their actions, although the BC Supreme Court has twice told them that what they are doing is unlawful. A forest defender is shoved into the bushes, and then kicked to the ground. A witness asks, “Did you assess him for injury?” The RCMP reply, “He is a grown man, he just fell down.” The protester has a broken ankle. A volunteer medic gives him crutches and escorts him to safety. Heli Camp after RCMP destroyed it Monday. RCMP raided HQ, River and Heli Camps simultaneously, using ATVs to drive up to Heli Camp. Three ATVs are seen parked at the right in the photo. RCMP destroyed the camp, including the kitchen structure, tents, etc. (photo courtesy of Rainforest Flying Squad) The RCMP are targeting First Nations youth, as they always do, and many officers are wearing the “Thin Blue Line” insignia which the RCMP banned in 2020. Indigenous leader Rainbow Eyes, one of the 90 arrested on August 9th, says: “The Thin Blue Line badges they wear on their uniforms are a symbol of hate and the oppression of my people. I have zero percent trust in the RCMP in terms of my safety and the safety of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.” Rainbow Eyes just before her first arrest in May 2021 (photo by Dawna Mueller) She notes, “We are a nonviolent movement here to save ancient forests. Why are we subjected to RCMP who wear banned symbols of racism? Do they think they are above the laws they are employed to enforce?” The RCMP are breaking into parked cars, and stealing cell phones and laptops. They use a bulldozer to take down the camp kitchen, and chainsaws to cut down trees with tree-sits in them. None of these activities were authorized by Justice Verhoeven. And where are the media? Due to the surprise nature of the 8 am raid on August 9th—and the illegal use of an exclusion zone—there are no media present. Defenders in Victoria shorten the celebration and flood back to the forest, hiking around the illegal exclusion zones, to pick the wreckage of their vandalized tents out of the bush and start the cleanup. If the RCMP won’t follow the explicit instructions of two BC Supreme Court judges, what are we to do? Our “first past the post” political system has failed us, and now, the only resort we have left, our justice system, has failed us too. Ben Barclay has been defending forests by practicing ecoforestry for 40 years.
  2. The forest scientist takes us deep into the forest to learn its many startling and wise lessons. IF YOU COULD HOP IN A TIME MACHINE and find yourself in the orchard with Sir Isaac Newton, watching that apple drop, would you go? Billionaires can dream, but the beauty of books is that we can share the journey of scientists making great discoveries while they happen. Forest scientist Dr Suzanne Simard (photograph by Brendan Ko) Suzanne Simard’s Finding The Mother Tree tells the story of her discovery of how trees talk to each other. Trees also communicate with other species, in chat rooms connected by another biological kingdom—fungi. And trees don’t just talk, they share resources. When young trees are having a rough time getting started in life, their parent trees send them a little carbon to help out. Anyone with a child in university knows about this. It gets even wilder. Simard found that trees thought to compete with each other, actually cooperate, sharing water during summer droughts. All of this is contrary to the forestry textbooks she was given. How did she make this breakthrough? Simard invites us to share her journey with a storytelling approach, letting us inside her life from her country childhood in a family of hand loggers in the Monashee Mountains of BC, through her school and career in forestry science, raising her own family, her battle with breast cancer helped by paclitaxel (first discovered in Yew trees), to her decision to create The Mother Tree Project. I call her approach the “Pollination Model” of science writing. Simard’s book is a flower, and we pick up her ideas and knowledge like pollen on our “bee legs,” as we walk through, sipping narrative nectar. (Hollywood’s Amy Adams likes the book too—she plans to turn it into a feature film.) It makes for great reading, but the stories help the ideas stick better. Once you have become attached to “Suzie” as a rambunctious young outdoor dreamer, you can’t help but smile as she comes out with lines like: “I picked paper birch as my test species, because I knew from childhood that it made rich humus, that should be as helpful to conifers, as it had been delicious in my dirt-eating days.” Young ecology students will come out of the book knowing the difference between arbuscular and ecto mycorrhiza. The rest of us will have proof of what writers from Tolkien to Mary Oliver have been telling us all along. That trees are our family. Reading Dr Simard’s book is like perching on the shoulder of Sherlock Holmes while he unravels a case. You can see the scientific mind at work. By page 20 I felt like I’d signed up as a cabin boy on the HMS Beagle, off to the Galapagos in 1831, and lucked out by getting Charles Darwin as a roommate. Suzanne Simard and Charles Darwin have a lot in common. They are pure scientists. They get inside their subject. They open themselves to nature, and then think about it. As Darwin observed how the finches evolved on their separate islands, Simard observed how Douglas fir and birch trees grew stronger by sharing information and carbon resources. Both saw far beyond the limited world view of their day. Both are paradigm shifters. Darwin was told that evolution couldn’t be possible, because it threatened the Church, who had locked themselves into a dogma of “creation” happening only 4,000 years before. Simard’s discoveries have threatened our State, who have locked themselves into a dogma that the only way to get jobs out of a forest is to clearcut them. Belief that forests are just resources to be exploited is the primitive, dangerous dogma of our day. Anticipating the coming storm, Darwin hesitated to publish. Not realizing that trees sending each other biochemical texts about insects would cause a fuss, Simard published. Both were attacked by traditionalist academics and policy makers. Ironically, Simard’s ideas got dragged into a debate between two factions of today’s evolutionary scientists, the “competitionists” and “cooperationists,” who are bitterly divided over which is the dominant survival strategy. Does everything need a dominant factor? Like the split between Republicans and Democrats, this either/or, Us and Them, winner-take-all argument itself is now threatening our survival. Simard’s findings build a compelling case that cooperation and competition are complementary evolutionary strategies, woven into a resilient tapestry of life. Ecosystems are full of complex, “give and take” relationships. Scientists call these “reciprocal relationships.” (Remember that phrase. It’s on the test). Simard’s cancer doctor told her as a survival tip: “We are defined by our relationships.” For humans to survive, we need to learn to maintain reciprocal relationships. The best way to visualize this is to start treating our planet as family. When Darwin’s scientific discovery raised the implication that all life was extended family, the public freaked out, saying “We’re not monkeys.” One hundred years later, Jane Goodall proved that chimpanzees made tools, have personalities, and loved their children. Her PhD advisors insisted she refer to “David Greybeard” by a number. She refused, and brought chimps into our hearts, helping us connect with the animal kingdom. By helping us connect with mycelia and trees, Simard has taken us a step further, bringing two more entire biological kingdoms, of plants and fungi, into the house. Now we have the whole picture. Forests are not just stands of unsliced 2x4s with bark on them, they are an infinite universe of plants, fungi and animals. They have a right to life. And liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. Consider the forests of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. Since 1890, they have supported their community by harvesting and selling billions of board feet of lumber. They only cut the extra wood that grows annually. They “live off the interest.” They don’t sell raw logs, they own the mills, they have safe, secure jobs. They just declared their river to be a person. Although they have always thought of it as having inherent value and rights, the threat posed by a nearby mine opening prompted the tribal legislature to adopt the resolution. Simard’s Mother Tree Project, which draws from traditional Indigenous forest science, is developing a blueprint, in nine watersheds across BC, for reciprocal relationships between forests and humans. Her harvesting plan provides more and safer jobs than clearcutting, and does not reduce annual carbon and biomass. The BC government should have started this research 100 years ago, when Simard’s grandfathers were plucking single trees out of the forest and rafting them down the river for collection. Instead, they throttled up industrial clearcutting. By the time Simard had grown up and got her first forestry job with a logging company, the industry was so locked into practices based on the competition model, such as intensive brush clearing, that she could see her questions about cooperation being key to survival had no future. “If I discovered more evidence, pushed in this direction, I’d have to convince the company to change everything. That didn’t seem likely, given that I couldn’t even persuade my boss to plant a mix of species in the new clear-cuts at Boulder Creek,” she writes. Even after she became faculty at UBC, the BC Forest Service made her prove that their faulty brush clearing policies were wrong, instead of having her design them properly before they started. Today, John Horgan’s government is still ignoring her work, giving the last one percent of old growth away to corporations for peanuts, and throwing citizens who beg to differ in jail down at Fairy Creek. Fairy Creek valley, with clear cuts surrounding it Undeterred, the Mother Tree Project is quietly putting the solution on a plate for us. As long as we ask with respect, and don’t take more than the forest offers, our generous forest family will give us all the wood and jobs we need. It will give us cures for cancer, oxygen to breathe, carbon sequestration, and solace from our busy urban lives. Most of all, if we learn to treat the elders of our family with respect (and trees, moss and fungi are very much our evolutionary elders) we can find a sense of belonging. By making peace with forests, we can heal our souls. As Simard says: “This is not a book about how we can save the trees. This is a book about how the trees might save us.” The 2019 UN Report on Biodiversity reports that humans are causing the extinction of 10,000 species a year, and states that in the next 100 years “organized human existence will become untenable.” I guess that is how international diplomats say “Zombie Apocalypse.” Simard is offering us a way out of that scenario. I think her book could be particularly valuable to university and college students. My daughter texted me last year from her oceanography class, and said: “Dad, 40 percent of the students in class today are crying, because we can’t handle the information we are being given about the destruction of our oceans.” As a Father Tree, what nutrients can I send her? How does she manage to keep moving forward? Simard hopes that reading about her successful struggles through government and academic inertia will help give students and other marginalized populations such as Indigenous youth, “permission to hold on to their innate understanding,” and to get out in nature and find their own path. Like Ms Frizzle of Magic Schoolbus fame used to say: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” Simard deliberately included the messy bits of her journey in her book, because she believes that science should be just like art, music, love or any human act. While much of the science in Simard’s book is about how trees connect with each other, the book itself is an invitation for the reader to go out and find the nearest mother tree and say hello. “Hi mom. Um, sorry I haven’t called enough.” That’s ok. She loves us anyways. God knows why. But mothers are like that. A grove with mother tree at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute near Ladysmith (photograph by Ben Barclay) For readers on Vancouver Island, you can find such a mother tree in a grove at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute, near Ladysmith. When Merv Wilkinson cut the small tree at right (in the photo above), the bigger grandmother tree beside it sent nutrients out to place a woody cap on the stump, to protect the family from invasive insects. When you place your hand on that cap, chills will go up your spine. You can hear the trees talking. You can look around at a forest that freely gave a million board feet of lumber in Merv’s lifetime, and still has groves of 500-year-old Douglas fir linked by their ectomycorrhiza, and Cedar linked by their arbuscular mycorrhiza. Fairy Creek area mother tree (photograph by TJ Watt) You can also go visit a mother tree in the Fairy Creek valley, one of the last intact old growth watersheds in BC, only a few hours out of Victoria. But you’d better hurry, because it will be cut down and chucked onto the back of a logging truck in the next few weeks, once the protesters are cleared from protecting it. If the RCMP try and stop you, at least now you have the science on your side to say: “I’m visiting family, officer. My mother is dying, and I want to say goodbye before she’s gone.” Ben Barclay has run social enterprises and guided non-profits promoting sustainable forestry for 40 years.
  3. The CBC and mainstream coverage of Fairy Creek is very weak. Thank you for putting your feet in the service of trees and truth!
  4. The whole Clayoquot Summer protests, and the protection of Meares Island, did not slow the pace of logs coming out of Clayoquot Sound by so much as one stick. They just ramped up production elsewhere. This winter I watched a log barge as big as a cruise ship stagger by with a whole forest in it from the Cypre River.
  5. Any chance we can get you installed as Chief Forester for BC? The post seems to be pretty vacant at this time...
  6. Hi Susan - great point. I call those "Blood 2x4s". There are many alternative suppliers, like Live Edge near Duncan.
  7. Suzanne Simard's new book Finding The Mother Tree points out that Life is a complex series of "reciprocal relationships", where "competition" and "cooperation" are blended in a very complex weave. That leads me to think that this Unlikely Allies group are on the right track. We need to all work together, like Proportional Representation, where all parties sit at the same table, and find common ground, and move forward on that.
  8. Beautiful article. Left me with a haunting image of people laying the bodies of their families onto funeral pyres, and being so broken, the survivors just couldn't come back. It must have been a shattering experience. My heart goes out to them.
  9. Dear Lynne, thank you so much for your kind words, which, after a tough week at Fairy Creek, went down like a tall glass of cool, clear water. (That's partially a Joni Mitchell line. I like to learn from the best!) If you wish to come to Fairy Creek to visit some Mother Trees, I would happily arrange "safe passage" for you, out of range of the conflict. You can email me at thelorax@execulink.com You could visit River Camp for the 6:00 evening circle, and walk in the forest. Your presence would be a great gift, tree climbing or no! Another alternative, is a group of elders from Victoria planning a day trip soon. Sid Stefler can connect you with them. stafler@netbc.com He used to work with Merv Wilkinson at Wildwood. He's an Ent. They had a great time yesterday, but are returning, I understand. Again, thank you so much! Ben Here is a link to the Fairy Creek Go Fund Me Page. I'm hoping we can just buy the timber rights and give the valley to Suzanne's project to care for!
  10. The forest scientist takes us deep into the forest to learn its many startling and wise lessons. IF YOU COULD HOP IN A TIME MACHINE and find yourself in the orchard with Sir Isaac Newton, watching that apple drop, would you go? Billionaires can dream, but the beauty of books is that we can share the journey of scientists making great discoveries while they happen. Forest scientist Dr Suzanne Simard (photograph by Brendan Ko) Suzanne Simard’s Finding The Mother Tree tells the story of her discovery of how trees talk to each other. Trees also communicate with other species, in chat rooms connected by another biological kingdom—fungi. And trees don’t just talk, they share resources. When young trees are having a rough time getting started in life, their parent trees send them a little carbon to help out. Anyone with a child in university knows about this. It gets even wilder. Simard found that trees thought to compete with each other, actually cooperate, sharing water during summer droughts. All of this is contrary to the forestry textbooks she was given. How did she make this breakthrough? Simard invites us to share her journey with a storytelling approach, letting us inside her life from her country childhood in a family of hand loggers in the Monashee Mountains of BC, through her school and career in forestry science, raising her own family, her battle with breast cancer helped by paclitaxel (first discovered in Yew trees), to her decision to create The Mother Tree Project. I call her approach the “Pollination Model” of science writing. Simard’s book is a flower, and we pick up her ideas and knowledge like pollen on our “bee legs,” as we walk through, sipping narrative nectar. (Hollywood’s Amy Adams likes the book too—she plans to turn it into a feature film.) It makes for great reading, but the stories help the ideas stick better. Once you have become attached to “Suzie” as a rambunctious young outdoor dreamer, you can’t help but smile as she comes out with lines like: “I picked paper birch as my test species, because I knew from childhood that it made rich humus, that should be as helpful to conifers, as it had been delicious in my dirt-eating days.” Young ecology students will come out of the book knowing the difference between arbuscular and ecto mycorrhiza. The rest of us will have proof of what writers from Tolkien to Mary Oliver have been telling us all along. That trees are our family. Reading Dr Simard’s book is like perching on the shoulder of Sherlock Holmes while he unravels a case. You can see the scientific mind at work. By page 20 I felt like I’d signed up as a cabin boy on the HMS Beagle, off to the Galapagos in 1831, and lucked out by getting Charles Darwin as a roommate. Suzanne Simard and Charles Darwin have a lot in common. They are pure scientists. They get inside their subject. They open themselves to nature, and then think about it. As Darwin observed how the finches evolved on their separate islands, Simard observed how Douglas fir and birch trees grew stronger by sharing information and carbon resources. Both saw far beyond the limited world view of their day. Both are paradigm shifters. Darwin was told that evolution couldn’t be possible, because it threatened the Church, who had locked themselves into a dogma of “creation” happening only 4,000 years before. Simard’s discoveries have threatened our State, who have locked themselves into a dogma that the only way to get jobs out of a forest is to clearcut them. Belief that forests are just resources to be exploited is the primitive, dangerous dogma of our day. Anticipating the coming storm, Darwin hesitated to publish. Not realizing that trees sending each other biochemical texts about insects would cause a fuss, Simard published. Both were attacked by traditionalist academics and policy makers. Ironically, Simard’s ideas got dragged into a debate between two factions of today’s evolutionary scientists, the “competitionists” and “cooperationists,” who are bitterly divided over which is the dominant survival strategy. Does everything need a dominant factor? Like the split between Republicans and Democrats, this either/or, Us and Them, winner-take-all argument itself is now threatening our survival. Simard’s findings build a compelling case that cooperation and competition are complementary evolutionary strategies, woven into a resilient tapestry of life. Ecosystems are full of complex, “give and take” relationships. Scientists call these “reciprocal relationships.” (Remember that phrase. It’s on the test). Simard’s cancer doctor told her as a survival tip: “We are defined by our relationships.” For humans to survive, we need to learn to maintain reciprocal relationships. The best way to visualize this is to start treating our planet as family. When Darwin’s scientific discovery raised the implication that all life was extended family, the public freaked out, saying “We’re not monkeys.” One hundred years later, Jane Goodall proved that chimpanzees made tools, have personalities, and loved their children. Her PhD advisors insisted she refer to “David Greybeard” by a number. She refused, and brought chimps into our hearts, helping us connect with the animal kingdom. By helping us connect with mycelia and trees, Simard has taken us a step further, bringing two more entire biological kingdoms, of plants and fungi, into the house. Now we have the whole picture. Forests are not just stands of unsliced 2x4s with bark on them, they are an infinite universe of plants, fungi and animals. They have a right to life. And liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. Consider the forests of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. Since 1890, they have supported their community by harvesting and selling billions of board feet of lumber. They only cut the extra wood that grows annually. They “live off the interest.” They don’t sell raw logs, they own the mills, they have safe, secure jobs. They just declared their river to be a person. Although they have always thought of it as having inherent value and rights, the threat posed by a nearby mine opening prompted the tribal legislature to adopt the resolution. Simard’s Mother Tree Project, which draws from traditional Indigenous forest science, is developing a blueprint, in nine watersheds across BC, for reciprocal relationships between forests and humans. Her harvesting plan provides more and safer jobs than clearcutting, and does not reduce annual carbon and biomass. The BC government should have started this research 100 years ago, when Simard’s grandfathers were plucking single trees out of the forest and rafting them down the river for collection. Instead, they throttled up industrial clearcutting. By the time Simard had grown up and got her first forestry job with a logging company, the industry was so locked into practices based on the competition model, such as intensive brush clearing, that she could see her questions about cooperation being key to survival had no future. “If I discovered more evidence, pushed in this direction, I’d have to convince the company to change everything. That didn’t seem likely, given that I couldn’t even persuade my boss to plant a mix of species in the new clear-cuts at Boulder Creek,” she writes. Even after she became faculty at UBC, the BC Forest Service made her prove that their faulty brush clearing policies were wrong, instead of having her design them properly before they started. Today, John Horgan’s government is still ignoring her work, giving the last one percent of old growth away to corporations for peanuts, and throwing citizens who beg to differ in jail down at Fairy Creek. Fairy Creek valley, with clear cuts surrounding it Undeterred, the Mother Tree Project is quietly putting the solution on a plate for us. As long as we ask with respect, and don’t take more than the forest offers, our generous forest family will give us all the wood and jobs we need. It will give us cures for cancer, oxygen to breathe, carbon sequestration, and solace from our busy urban lives. Most of all, if we learn to treat the elders of our family with respect (and trees, moss and fungi are very much our evolutionary elders) we can find a sense of belonging. By making peace with forests, we can heal our souls. As Simard says: “This is not a book about how we can save the trees. This is a book about how the trees might save us.” The 2019 UN Report on Biodiversity reports that humans are causing the extinction of 10,000 species a year, and states that in the next 100 years “organized human existence will become untenable.” I guess that is how international diplomats say “Zombie Apocalypse.” Simard is offering us a way out of that scenario. I think her book could be particularly valuable to university and college students. My daughter texted me last year from her oceanography class, and said: “Dad, 40 percent of the students in class today are crying, because we can’t handle the information we are being given about the destruction of our oceans.” As a Father Tree, what nutrients can I send her? How does she manage to keep moving forward? Simard hopes that reading about her successful struggles through government and academic inertia will help give students and other marginalized populations such as Indigenous youth, “permission to hold on to their innate understanding,” and to get out in nature and find their own path. Like Ms Frizzle of Magic Schoolbus fame used to say: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” Simard deliberately included the messy bits of her journey in her book, because she believes that science should be just like art, music, love or any human act. While much of the science in Simard’s book is about how trees connect with each other, the book itself is an invitation for the reader to go out and find the nearest mother tree and say hello. “Hi mom. Um, sorry I haven’t called enough.” That’s ok. She loves us anyways. God knows why. But mothers are like that. A grove with mother tree at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute near Ladysmith (photograph by Ben Barclay) For readers on Vancouver Island, you can find such a mother tree in a grove at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute, near Ladysmith. When Merv Wilkinson cut the small tree at right (in the photo above), the bigger grandmother tree beside it sent nutrients out to place a woody cap on the stump, to protect the family from invasive insects. When you place your hand on that cap, chills will go up your spine. You can hear the trees talking. You can look around at a forest that freely gave a million board feet of lumber in Merv’s lifetime, and still has groves of 500-year-old Douglas fir linked by their ectomycorrhiza, and Cedar linked by their arbuscular mycorrhiza. Fairy Creek area mother tree (photograph by TJ Watt) You can also go visit a mother tree in the Fairy Creek valley, one of the last intact old growth watersheds in BC, only a few hours out of Victoria. But you’d better hurry, because it will be cut down and chucked onto the back of a logging truck in the next few weeks, once the protesters are cleared from protecting it. If the RCMP try and stop you, at least now you have the science on your side to say: “I’m visiting family, officer. My mother is dying, and I want to say goodbye before she’s gone.” Ben Barclay has run social enterprises and guided non-profits promoting sustainable forestry for 40 years.
  11. Myth #1: Everybody needs to be born into a lifetime of Utility Debt. In their lifetimes, most people will pay $70,000 for hydro. And their children. And their children. Forever. By putting 12-16 solar panels on their roof, every homeowner in BC could generate their own annual consumption, which would reduce their energy footprint 50%+, (which is our societal goal to stop global warming), and free them from paying for hydro. Forever.
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