Nobody should have right to log old growth, in a just world
Re: So, what about Fairy Creek?
Franz Kafka wrote that he admired those who enjoyed the luxury of having opinions. I am with him on that, thinking that having an opinion often requires some degree of tunnel vision, common practice being to cite evidence selected to support one’s biases. However, as I have been asked my opinion, I speak here from my particular view.
Conditions and activities at Fairy Creek are a small local instance of an ongoing global catastrophe that threatens our human existence. The biosphere of Earth is in a critical state, and that includes us. Climate systems of Earth, and so the living systems of Earth, are damaged by massive human activities and therefore they risk no longer supplying necessities of life for a human population anywhere near as large as the present, if at all.
Changes underway now in Earth’s biosphere, greatly accelerated during these past two centuries since the Industrial Revolution and our greatly increased burning of fossil fuels, are occurring too quickly (cf., critical tipping points and accelerating feedback loops in global climate and biosystems) for evolutionary processes of natural selection to have sufficient adaptive effect for survival of threatened species. The human species and a great many others cannot adapt quickly enough to thrive or survive in such rapidly changing conditions. Our modern technologies might provide necessities of life, but likely for a greatly reduced population and in a changed world.
Saving old growth forests is not going to change that. We are caught up in a catastrophic global process of our own creation, one that has grown beyond our influence.
So, what about Fairy Creek?
Invasion of others’ homelands has been occurring since before our ancient ancestors became human. It is what we do, likely always have done, with rare exceptions. Since earliest creatures of the genus Homo, within our own groups, we have survived by mutual support and co-operation. But towards others, our actions are much of murder, theft, rape and other ways of cruel dominance. In modern times, with a little education, and concern for appearances, we speak of colonization, and some of us buy interests in corporations to do that cruel work, so that we ourselves might profit and live more pleasantly, feeling relatively unthreatened, obscuring our ill influence behind pretence of civility.
Indigenous peoples everywhere, along with the lands and waters with which their ancestors lived in balance often for thousands of years, are under attack, as modern industrial consumerist societies seek means for their own survival, at costs to all else. Such dominant societies are likely to continue to dominate, for they have armies.
The destruction of old growth coastal rain forests in B.C. is similar in kind, in its harmful effects, to the much more extensive destruction of the forests of the Amazon basin. All of those forests are among major sources of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, and natural forests are necessary aspects of complex living systems extending from alpine meadows to ocean depths. In harming a part, we harm the whole.
What right does any party have to act in ways that threaten the life, health and well-being of others?
If there were an effective global governing coalition, acting in good faith with values consistent with healthy natural processes of Earth’s living systems, along with just provision for all, then no party would have the right to act in ways that would result in harms to others, or to the whole. But we don’t have such civil governance, and at this time it seems unlikely that we will create it, the core reason being that dominant social organizations are driven mainly by self-interest.
But, if we were to self-govern in that just way, with the best interests of others as our prime motivation, and as old growth forest is of central importance in the life-support systems of Earth, then, within a general restriction on the non-consensual taking of common goods for one’s own purposes, no-one would have the right to cut old growth forest. Doing so yields only short-term, limited range benefits for a few, through the systems of a society/economy/culture that, by effect of its insatiable greed, is destructive of its own foundations, and so demonstrates its moral ineptitude, and its incompetence to govern, except by force.
Indigenous peoples are caught in the death-spasms of the dominant society. Participating in the collapsing global industrial economy that is destroying their traditional world, along with much else living on this planet, appears to be the main chance for their survival. It’s a Hell of a choice.
In Classical Greek culture, a common theme was of a great person whose excessive pride — a tragic flaw — offended the gods, leading to that person’s downfall. In modern times, an activist in the South Pacific defending his people and their land, said: “The dragon of our arrogance will destroy us.” Humankind is like a great person with a tragic flaw, as effects of our wilful self-interest and our cleverness dangerously surpass the influence of our wisdom.
Perhaps some so-called uncontacted peoples, in places remote from our destructive society, will remain uncontacted and survive the collapse that, with much suffering and hardship, is likely to reduce greatly the human population on Earth.
I have little of hopeful thoughts about the future of humankind, except that we do well to care for and to support one another, through whatever challenges arise.
John Mowat Steven