The Contrarian: Save the Boreal Forest

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A page from Willie Brant’s diary

Joe was a bit more cheerful when I dropped in that rainy day last week, big difference from last week’s report.

He was sitting there with a silly grin on, surrounded by some of the heavy books and periodicals he reads, he is not real keen on the internet, says it makes it too easy to lie to the people.

“So what’s up? You into the sauce or something, you are looking mighty smug this morning!”

“Oh, well”, he said, “I feel a bit of optimism we might escape the cloud we have been under.” “How So?” from me.

“Well”, he says, waving at a pile of papers around him, “Remember ‘Save the Boreal Forest’? A few years ago some American billionaires set it up as a charity, put out about $60 million in grants to the usual environmental groups and protest groups so they could make a huge fuss that the Canadian Boreal Forest was in danger, and had to be ‘saved’. Actually, turns out it was only Northern Ontario they were concerned about, when they got our forest industry on the ropes they ran out of money and forgot all about ‘saving’ the rest of the Boreal Forest.”

“So, that seems a bit off”, says me, “Doesn’t the boreal forest renew itself by fire? So environmentally isn’t the best way to get the wood the world needs is to harvest the mature boreal forest, save all that C02 going up in the air when it burns, then plant again so the new trees can suck more C02 out of the air?”

He exploded “Are you kidding? This is about politics, not practical reality or what is good for the planet!” Then he went on to say that with all the protest groups howling and a sympathetic government, the Ontario Forest Industry threw in the towel and signed a protocol which puts the whole industry in sunset mode, no new investment or growth. Any mills that went down because of the economy are down permanently, their forest limits taken away. Any mills still operating have three times as much timber growing on their limits as they use, so they don’t have to be real up on reforesting. A downward spiral.

“But why would the billionaires want to shut us down? Surely they can figure all this out” from me, and Joe replied “Well, you know my theory, the American Midwest is drying up, they won’t be able to support their population or the huge agriculture there, it is the breadbasket of the world, and they want us gone so they can divert our northern rivers south! Of course that is just a theory, maybe there is something else.”

After some thought, I came up with “So, why so cheerful and optimistic? Sounds pretty gloomy to me” and he replied with “Yes, but our new Premier just announced that he will support growth in the North including the Forest Industry. Maybe he will tear up the “Northern Ontario Growth Plan’ we have been stuck under, it is really more of a ‘Northern Ontario Shrink Plan’. Maybe that will put us on an upward slope for a change.” So, sure hope he is right, if we want our northern towns to survive.

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