(Video produced by James Steidle)
Conservation North: why we formed and what we’re about
Nature is in deep trouble in northern BC due in large part to commercial logging of primary forests. Conservation North was formed to address this problem. We are volunteers; as a registered society as opposed to a charity, we are not subject to the limitations that charitable status places on the activities of environmental non-governmental organizations.
We are free to educate, advocate, and resist. This freedom is a core value for us.
In speaking with hundreds of people in Prince George and the Robson Valley, we learned three important things:
1) what’s left of nature needs to be protected now;
2) the protection of nature is being undermined by the political influence of forestry companies on the BC government; and
3) the activities of those forestry companies are enabled by professional practice and its culture of exploitation.
When coalescing as a group, we determined what we did and did not want to be. We witnessed other groups being ineffectual at protecting nature. The following four things Conservation North does not do:
1. We do not use the language of forestry. Language has power. Beliefs and values are embedded in the words we choose to use. Primary forests are neither ‘fiber’ nor ‘feedstock’. Nature is not a ‘resource’ to be exploited. Primary forests are not ‘waste’ waiting to be turned into commodities for short-term profit. ‘Maintaining forest health’ is code for logging after important natural disturbances. We use language grounded in ecology and in an understanding of and respect for the intrinsic value of nature, as opposed to language invented by people intent on converting nature into products for sale.
2. We do not consult with licensees (forest companies) on how industrial logging should be improved. Weighing in on how the last primary forests are logged is not something we’re interested in. Though consulting with a forestry company about how to cut a primary forest might result in changes to short-term plans for that area, it will not address the larger problem. The best a forest company will ever do is tweak their management, e.g. switching from clearcutting to partial harvest, causing major ecological damage either way.
3. We do not heed forest professionals on matters of ecology. Forest professionals are taught that it’s possible to manage natural ecosystem for all things. This is untrue, and forty-five years of ecological research has taught us otherwise. Collapsing fish and wildlife populations, disappearing bird communities, and the many endangered plants and animals in BC are telling us otherwise. This destruction happened on the watch of professional foresters, who have immense power over land management. Their lies are an attempt to maintain status quo.
4. We do not view government consultation processes as genuine attempts to prevent ecological collapse nor to foster sustainable communities. The questions posed by government consultations, whether public or invite-only, are most often the wrong ones. Questions like “how do we sustain this industry” must be “what is best for our communities and nature over the long term”. The invite-only Interior Forestry Renewal meetings include participants invested in industrial forestry and exclude those with broader interests and knowledge. These processes are designed to manufacture consent, rather than sustain happy and healthy human and natural relationships.
Motivations of the extractive sector prevail over the interests of people and the rights of nature. It is time for communities to set the agenda. This is what Conservation North does do:
1. A vision of the future. We articulate a regional vision for the future. This vision and our goals are based on science and ethics, and stem from our love of nature and our human community.
2. We speak truth about what’s happening on the ground. Our responsibility is to provide information about how and why ecological collapse is taking place in northern BC. We document, through spatial analyses, photos, video and experience, the impacts of roads and industrial logging. Most of these ecosystems are globally endangered.
3. We interact with community members face to face. Online engagement is great and necessary but building a movement requires meeting with others in person. We hold educational events, rallies, and video screenings. We table at farmers markets, concerts, and public events. We do field trips and banner drops. We spend time with those on the land to build solidarity and to foster an emotional connection to place.
Organizing is simply getting one person to agree on a goal and working together. If you love wild places and you want to defend them, start collecting other people who feel the same way. Set goals together, start working towards those goals, hang out your sign, and start building your networking power for the land and your community.