The Blessed Unrest and the public good in B.C.
We, meaning government, First Nations, communities, scientists, academics, non-government organizations, industry and citizens, must find a way to pool our collective efforts to responsibly steward the precious natural resources given to us.
Blessed Unrest — that’s the name Paul Hawken gave more than a decade ago to the grassroots movement that was sweeping the world working in the name of environmental protection and social justice. Generally comprised of a loose collection of individuals or groups without a particular leader, it’s a movement that’s alive and well in B.C. Citizens and communities are standing up to protect the last vestiges of intact ecosystems, the rights and culture of Indigenous peoples, wildlife habitat, salmon runs, old growth forest, clean water systems, and the transition demanded by climate change. It began 30 years ago with Clayoquot Sound, yet here we are still trying to protect those places and rights that represent our very essence.
Site C, Trans Mountain, LNG pipelines, abandoned oil and gas wells, the Wet’suwet’en land rights, Six Mountains, Fairy Creek, the Nuchatlaht land defense, Caycuse, Argonaut Creek, the Walbran, Avatar Grove, the Great Bear Rainforest (yes, they are logging that!), it is an ongoing and exhausting list. Activists are mounting legal actions, writing letters, signing petitions, raising donations, publishing articles, hosting webinars, lobbying elected officials — all pleading for a more respectful and responsible worldview. For the most part, it’s a call that has fallen on deaf ears at government levels. Government can wait out the expensive lawsuits and the cries of public outrage, then drag its heels on meaningful and substantive reform while continuing to meet with industry lobbyists. Environmental and social protectors don’t have a voice, no matter the stripe of the government.
Often it comes down to talk of buying the specific tract of land to save it, but honestly, it is not a problem we can buy our way out of. This is especially true with Crown lands, where public forests have been handed over to tenured industrial forest companies. Their primary goals are to maximize corporate profits and introduce technology to reduce the need for salaries, benefits, pensions and other pesky incursions into the profit margin, not community benefit and public good.
We have created a competitive arena, but there is no denying those enormous amounts of money, time and labour spent could be put to better use to improve who and what we are as a responsible and inclusive society. What it all comes down to is the public good. What is the government responsibility when it comes to stewarding our precious natural resources? Whose interest is best served? Why does profit take precedence over science? How can we develop frameworks that meet a variety of needs in a more balanced manner?
The NDP has just won a majority government here in B.C. During the campaign, they pledged themselves to the 14 recommendations contained in the Gorley and Merkel Old Growth Strategic Review Report. The report itself is generally well-received, but was accompanied by government’s deferral list of old growth sites that, upon closer scrutiny, proved less than substantive. Two possibilities come to mind: either government thought B.C. forest experts would not catch on to the smoke and mirrors nature of the list, or there is a distinct lack of subject matter experts within government itself. Government has shown itself capable of relying on science as the overriding COVID-19 strategy — why not look to the science of forests, environment, social justice, climate change?
Government must hold itself to the high standard of serving the public good. It’s time we all work together to treasure the precious resources we have for now and for generations to come. In the meantime, the Blessed Unrest will continue efforts to protect what matters to us as a caring society.