It’s Time to Respect our Forests

For awhile now, my mind has been filled with concern for what is happening to our forests, not only here in Nova Scotia, but all around our world.

This new found concern was temporarily relieved while packing up my books for a recent move.  My eye was drawn to a small, soft covered book simply entitled ” Love of Nature”…. a book given to me by my cousin, Joan Starr Murray, now deceased.

For many years, Joan and her husband spent her summers at their cottage in the Kawarthas’ in Ontario. By combining her deep love for the nature that surrounded her and using her keen eye for photography, she created an inspiring collection of poems and sayings by some of our most famous writers and philosophers. After reading her book from cover to cover, I chose those that clearly spoke to me and inspired me to write this post:

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir (1838-1911)

The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.” – Gautama Buddha c.563- c 483 BC

And finally these much loved words written by William Wordsworth I learned in school:

“One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can.” 

A September walk in the woods in Kejimakujik.

Surely there are many people like me with similar thoughts and feelings regarding our forests and what we are doing to them. We see them being devastated by our outmoded method of clear cutting and wonder what we can do  differently so we can preserve what is left?

Obvious clear cut on North Mountain Rd. near Annapolis Royal.

What remains.

However, the problem is there are still too many who really don’t care or respect our forests. I understand our human dilemma to do things that aren’t always right or wise in our constant struggle to just survive. This is true for some of our private wood lot owners as well as our government which has control over our crown lands where old forest growth can still be found.  Would they do this if they knew the consequences or if they could learn a better way of doing it?  Moreover, what about those who do it out of greed? There is now an ever growing  group of us who are saying enough is enough who are willing to sacrifice our time and resources into putting pressure on our government on all levels to wake up and take action before our forests will be gone.

At long last, we are finally listening to the scientists telling us that we have reached the point of no return. They have been sending out alerts about how we must protect our resources for almost half a century to no avail. We human beings are such slow learners! Now we are at the zero hour, and it’s impossible for us to ignore any longer the problems we have created through greed and wasteful habits. We know that such disrespect for Mother Nature must change.

The Mi’Kmaq had and still have the answer.

And yet, not a day passes when we don’t hear depressing news about another natural disaster. It’s not surprising that this summer is turning out to be the hottest one on record. Europe is cooking and the Arctic is on fire. On top of this frightening news, we are receiving dire reports from down south at the equator where lies the mighty Amazon Rain Forest. Brazil’s extremely right wing leader, President Bolsonaro, has earmarked this vulnerable area for massive  development. I recently received a heart felt plea from Avaaz*…  alerting us to what is happening down there and it’s not pretty.  Already bulldozers have illegally cleared an area the size of 500,000 soccer fields! And, this is just the beginning.

In my previous post, I wrote about our own forest devastation happening right here in my home province of Nova Scotia. With the sanction of our premier and his cabinet, who have little if any understanding of how to manage our forests, clear cutting is going ahead in leaps and bounds. Fortunately, there are groups of concerned citizens cropping up all over the province, such as the XR (Extinction Rebellion), who are taking action against our premier. You can read about this in my previous post http://Tackling Climate Change in Nova Scotia

XR sign at entrance to Corbett-Dalhousie Lake protest in June.

Our banner alerting the loggers we are there to keep this forest.

It’s clear to this growing number of supporters who care about what we are doing to our forests and what is left of them, that our wasteful and archaic lifestyle is emitting far too much carbon which we need to address immediately. We should know that mowing down our forests is the last thing we should be doing. As we open up our minds to how valuable trees are for our health in their production of life giving oxygen, how on earth can we justify killing them?  How can our so-called leaders not see that their outmoded way of dealing with our forests is causing irreparable damage to every living thing? Our young people understand this, but unfortunately our leaders, who primarily represent the older generation, are failing to see or purposely are closing their eyes to what is happening. What can we do to awaken them?

Not that many years ago, back in the days I was in school, old growth trees made up about 75% of our forests in Nova Scotia. Today it stands at the  startlingly low figure of 0.6%. Clear cutting has taken a tremendous toll on our forests in the last 50 years which appears to be getting worse in spite of attempts from various studies taken by the province in trying to tackle the problem. As recently as 2008 a study entitled “The Path We Share” brought forth an ecologically sustainable plan for managing our forests. However, our present government nixed it and replaced it with a “five year progress plan” with the promise that no more than 50% of our forests would be clear cut. Guess what?  That promise has today morphed into 90%!

Despite all this horrible news, Joan’s little gem of a book has given me a renewed desire to fight for what we have left. I am extremely grateful that we have at least some of that valuable forest here in the southwestern part of our province… for instance, the Tobaic Wilderness, Kejimukujik National Park, and the Corbett-Dalhousie Lake Forest where XR held their protest in June managing a temporary reprieve to the clear cutting at least until the nesting period for the birds is over. Our small success was a piece of much needed good news, but we can’t help wondering for how long it will last and what the future will bring? We know full well that if we don’t act now to save what is still here, then what will our future generations have? The answer is obvious so action is needed right now. Therefore, I will be one of many who will travel up to Halifax in mid September to join the XR movement to march with the young and the old to voice our concern to our Premier and his cabinet.

Concerned XRer’s taking a guided tour through the Corbett-Dalhousie Forest.

An old tree marked to be saved if possible.

In conclusion, I want to share this quotation from Wendell Berry which so accurately sums up the need for us to respect and preserve what we have left of our forests:

Man cannot be independent of nature. In one way or another he must live in relation to it, and there are only two alternatives: dominate it, to assert his presence in it by destroying it; or the way of Henry David Thoreau, who went to the natural places to become quiet in them , to learn from them, to be restored by them.”

And Thoreau himself wrote…”in wilderness is the preservation of the World.”

All quotations were taken from Joan Starr Murray’s “Love of Nature”.

*Avaaz – is one of the world’s largest and most effective online organizations campaigning for change. Formed in 2007 their mission is to “organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world people everywhere want.”

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