It used to be easy to know who was on which side in British Columbia’s environmental wars, writes Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail.
But the political landscape has changed dramatically and now environmentalists are freely crossing boundaries to join forces with old adversaries, including Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell.
In the bad old days, during the “war in the woods” phase, all the environmentalists were lined up on one side of the logging road, both figuratively and literally, and the resource companies were on the other, supported by the provincial government.
Things began to change after the showdown at Clayoquot Sound, however, where mass arrests drove home the point to both the logging industry and government that the whole world really was watching.
On all sides after that there was a willingness to seek compromise. In the Great Bear Rainforest debate, environmental groups met with government and industry to work out a plan that was recently finalized. Hailed by environmentalists as one of the most important environmental victories in the province’s history, a close look at the plan will show that – surprisingly – it allows for a lot of logging.
Old growth logging with a green stamp of approval? Hard to believe, but true.
In recent years in Clayoquot Sound an environmental organization, Ecotrust Canada, has not only endorsed logging, but has provided financial and management support to Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd.
More recently Tzeporah Berman, a co-founder of ForestEthics, has been extolling the virtues of run-of-river power projects so enthusiastically that she has been featured in press releases issued by Plutonic Power Corp., which is undertaking a controversial project in Bute Inlet.
Ms. Berman, who was on the front lines in Clayoquot Sound, also made headlines last week because of a memo she wrote, castigating the NDP for threatening to abandon the Liberal carbon tax.
Then, on the weekend, David Suzuki drove a green stake into the heart of the NDP, by saying if the Liberals lose over the carbon tax issue, carbon taxes may be dead everywhere.
All of this has created a rather perplexing picture. When environmentalists get space in B.C. newspapers these days they use it to slag the NDP or embrace power projects, not to lament the logging of old growth forests.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” says Vicky Husband, a leading environmental voice in British Columbia for more than 30 years.
Ms. Husband says environmentalists used to strive to be non-partisan, particularly during election campaigns because they knew they would have to work with whomever formed the government.
But the movement has become deeply split by several things: the emergence of global warming as an overarching issue; the fractious debate over run-of-river projects and the way the Liberals have played hardball with environmentalists, insisting that they could only have influence if they joined in backroom negotiations with government officials.
Ms. Husband says she’s been surprised by the way some leading environmentalists have injected themselves into the current election campaign.
“The environment is a non-partisan issue,” she says. “It’s more important than any party.”
But she says some have rejected that approach because they believe fighting global warming is more important than anything else.
“I have had some leading environmentalists tell me that they don’t care about logging issues any more because if global warming takes place there won’t be any more trees left. It’s gotten that weird,” she said.
“I believe global warming is the most important issue. But I don’t think that means you can trash the environment in pursuit of your [greenhouse gas emission] goals,” she said.
Ms. Husband is sticking to her long-held principles. She criticizes the NDP over the party’s carbon tax policy – then quickly adds in some licks at the Liberals for promoting offshore oil and gas exploration, building super highways, and expanding oil, gas and coal production.
While others can’t, Ms. Husband can still see the line drawn in the dirt that separates environmentalists from government and industry.