Next month’s municipal election could determine the future of North Cowichan’s forests, according to local forest activist and film maker Icel Dobell.
Dobell has just released Voice of the Unexpected, her third video about the community forests, to remind citizens to get out to vote and to protect the local forest ecosystems.
Voice of the Unexpected is not what you might expect in a forest documentary, said Dobell. It feels more like a forest fairy tale. With no actors, no budget, “it is visually stunning with amazing production values,” according to one viewer. “It gets across the message of coming together to make change, and that it is possible. It’s beautiful. It also functions as a good summary of what’s happened so far, and that we’re ready for what comes next, and that it’s up to us.”
Dobell said what’s unexpected is the story of the past four years of North Cowichan’s ongoing review of its 5,000-hectare municipal forest reserve.
“To some it may appear allegorical, but, like everything, it is metaphoric and literal,” she said.
“But it is not the whole story. So many things have happened since February, 2019, when council declared a pause of logging of the MFR for public consultation about their highest good. The story is too big to be covered in four little videos.”
Dobell is one of the founders of Where Do We Stand, a public platform advocating for the protection of the Six Mountain Forest, as her group calls North Cowichan’s MFR.
In December, 2018, WDWS released Dobell’s first video, Legacy, to alert citizens about “logging coming over the tops of the mountains” and so began a local grassroots campaign to protect the forests.
Legacy tells the history of what Dobell believes is “our greatest gift as a community; the right to protect 5,000 hectares of forest for our community owns the six mountains.”
She said four years ago, few people in North Cowichan knew this, but nowadays, thousands do.
Dobell’s second video, Owl and Hummingbird, is a story for children of all ages, and shares a similar tone to Voice of the Unexpected.
Dobell says the videos are not about tribes and nations, they are about individuals and communities coming together.
“We happen to be from diverse backgrounds, cultures, genders; the differences are superficial,” she said.
“What is real is the love we share for nature, forests, children. What is real is the power we have in North Cowichan, including people of all ancestors, to come together to enact profound change as no other community on the continent. Together, we have a remarkable opportunity to commence a reconciliation with nature. Perhaps by doing this, we may reconcile deeply within and between ourselves.”
Dobell said all people in the Valley can trace their roots back to ancestors who revered nature as all powerful and beyond human possession and succession.
She said there is an international movement to establish the legal personhood and inviolable rights of ecosystems.
“We have the legal right to proclaim the personhood and sovereignty of six mountains of rare, endangered forest ecosystems,” Dobell said.
“We do not need to argue over who should own them. We do not need to negotiate over who should profit from them. Carbon credits are a means to pay for all that must be done to allow the forests to become old growth. Much of the six mountains, second-growth, naturally regenerated forests, is already functioning as old growth.”
Dobell said that’s the story of her fourth video, New Old Growth: Voice of Promise, which will be released soon.
She said a lot of resources, time and energy have gone into North Cowichan’s forest review, including public workshops, surveys, and many meetings.
Dobell said the review is nearly complete and believes it could be done by end of 2022.
“To not finish the review would be shameful,” she said.
“People have asked us, ‘if we want to protect the forests, who do we vote for?’. To be fair, we arrived at two simple questions we put forward to all North Cowichan candidates. To answer the questions does not require knowing all the complexities of the forest review. If elected, will they commit to finish the forest review? And until the review is completed, will they commit to continue the moratorium on logging?”
Dobell said the candidate’s answers will be posted on WhereDoWeStand.ca as they come in.
“In North Cowichan, we live in a paradise,” she said. “We have the right to vote to protect it. Great gifts come with responsibility. It is a responsibility to vote.”
Legacy and Voice of the Unexpected are available for viewing on WhereDoWeStand.ca.