04 Jun 2010

On May 18, 2010, the Globe & Mail’s Martin Mittlelstaedt reported the forestry sector sees “green as the colour of hope”. It appears that Canada’s rapidly shrinking forestry sector ($80 billion last year down to 54 billion this year) is looking to “green” itself in an effort to regain lost revenues. When the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), which has spent years battling with environmental groups, announces it is going to “commit itself to maintaining the world’s highest environmental standards of forest management and suspend logging on nearly 30 million hectares of boreal forests to develop conservation plans” I can’t help but ask what’s going on here?

Is it possible the industry sees the potential of more eco-responsible forestry products? If so, it’s economic potential its seeing. As Mittelstaedt points out the mega success of publishing the last two Harry Potter novels on recycled paper, Office Depot’s decision to pressure a number of Canadian forest companies to improve their environmental practices, and Rona’s looking to purchase more eco-responsible products could all be seen as being representative of industry shifts; shifts that the forestry sector would be wise to acknowledge as they reflect consumer expectations and demand. Economically, it sounds progressive. Environmentally, suspect.  It’s the “in return” factor tied to this announcement that creates this skepticism. In return for FPAC’s recent commitment Greenpeace and Forest Ethics have agreed to stop their boycotting campaigns against the FPAC’s association members. Hmmm, so is this a success or a compromise?

Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Yes, it’s a concession and also no doubt a compromise/concession. How could it not be? Amazingly, these two very different values driven entities have somehow found sufficient points of agreement to get to this point- at least for now. Concessions, especially in these types of extremely difficult situations, I believe can be a success as they still fuel momentum which is good. These types of agreements do not eliminate or bring closure to the issue of how we, as a society, should interact with our natural resources. Rather they become part of what has developed into a long on-going debate about how we will live, consume and interact with our environment. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point. When I was a kid there was no such thing as recycled paper unless you were making it yourself. The idea that offices would have to choose between using printer paper made from recycled paper or trees didn’t exist. People dumped tires, sofas and other bric-a-brac along the highway all the time. This has changed, thank goodness, due in part to this long on going “dialogue”; a dialogue that has lead to “doing” and I believe will continue to be a catalyst for change. A Canadian green forestry sector: success or compromise? My answer: both as long as we keep on talking. And if I were a Green Party candidate I’d make sure that dialogue keeps on taking place.

To read Mittelstaedt’s article go to: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/for-forestry-sector-green-%20is-the-colour-of-hope/article1572795/
For more details on the deal check out: http://www.theprovince.com/technology/Stunning+forest+protection+deal+with+caution/3045940/story.html
For the BBC’s take on the deal and a bit of perspective of how much land is being protected go to:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10123210.stm

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