• Fred Guerin

On Old-Growth Logging, Deforestation and Habitat Destruction


The National Observer has an article today about political leaders at the COP26 in Glasgow "promising" to halt the ‘chainsaw massacre’ of the world’s forests.


'Promising'


Really?


You mean like the promises they made at the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate to cut greenhouse emissions and keep average global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius?


I am so effin tired of backslapping, asshole politicians, elite corporate executives, and know-nothing economic world leaders who are treated to luxurious accommodations and photo-ops while they lie to each other about the great measures they will take to reduce climate warming, knowing all the while that these are empty promises and they intend to do next to nothing to meet the coming crisis.


What the National Observer article does not talk about is the fact that Canada is a world leader in the destruction of wildlife habitat, deforestation and logging, clearcutting a million acres of boreal forest every year—a practice that releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and is equal to the annual emissions of 320 million cars. Eight percent of the world’s virgin forests were degraded between 2000 and 2013. Of that eight percent, 21.4 percent occurred in Canada.


Every year 200,000 hectares of forested land are logged in BC. Old-growth forests here are one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet, but this province, thanks to the shameless, corporate-captured Horgan government, continues the decimation.

At this point, 90% of our ancient trees (many of which have stood for 800 years) have already been felled. As a result, more than 2,000 species are now at risk of disappearing. If B.C. doesn’t end this decimation the last old-growth could be gone in as little as 10 years. (If you want a look at a new map detailing the destruction of old-growth forests go here.)


There are obvious environmental, climate warming, and cultural reasons to end logging and especially logging of old-growth forests. These forests help to protect the province from future climate change disasters. They are rich in biodiversity — which means that they support many other animal and plant species, including some which simply cannot survive in any other type of habitat. Their dense canopy, tough bark and extensive root systems help to prevent the spread of forest fires, landslides, and flooding — not to mention protecting water sources.


Old-growth forests also have a deep cultural significance for Indigenous peoples who have protected and sustained them for thousands of years. They could teach the rest of the world a thing or two about living within the ecological limits of nature and seeing the natural world as a great gift, a living, breathing being. Under the premise of environmental justice, the protection of ancient forests and biodiversity is part and parcel of justice for Indigenous peoples and the return of land to Indigenous Nations. (See my article on the links between extractive capitalism, reconciliation and colonialism here.)


Meanwhile, the present COP 26 climate change conference (which after 26 years should rightly be re-named the COP-OUT conference) is the whitest and the most privileged COP to date. Why? Because poor nations and activists in the Global South have been prohibited from attending it. Many of the latter have not had access to COVID vaccines. They don’t have access because greedy pharmaceutical companies absolutely refuse to share their patented knowledge and technology with drug manufacturers that could produce them for poorer countries, and also because wealthy nations representing just 13 percent of the world’s population have already cornered more than half (51 percent) of the promised doses of new COVID-19 vaccines. So, in other words, those most affected by climate warming and COVID are the most marginalized, the least heard from, and the most vulnerable to suffering and death. There is no excuse, no political, economic or moral justification for this, but there is a very obvious explanation: our current global capitalist economic system.


If we are really going to meet the issues of climate warming, deforestation, and environmental, hydrosphere and biosphere degradation, then we have to look at root causes. And the root cause of all of these problems is our global dependency on an economic system built on endless for-profit development and ceaseless consumerism on a finite planet. Our Earth is a closed system. It has only a finite amount of matter. Under our present world capitalist system, we are eating up the Earth’s resources at such an unsustainable rate that we have already exceeded our planet's carrying capacity. At this point, we have also have exceeded safe limits for greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity, and disturbance of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. What that means is the destructive root system of extractivist capitalism must end RIGHT NOW and be replaced by an alternative economic system grounded in the actual limits of what our planet can carry.


The reality is that we can either have an ecologically sustainable economic system that protects and enhances the health and well-being of humans and other forms of life within the limits afforded by our planet, or we can have capitalism. But, we cannot have both.

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