If trees are the answer, then what are the questions? A few ideas were presented by former Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore to more than 200 people who packed into the Sechelt Seniors’ Centre Nov. 22 in the first in a series of “Pro-voc-a-talks” events planned by the Coast Community Builders Association (CCBA).
Moore’s theme of “trees are the answer” found an appreciative audience among the crowd. Moore bills himself as a “sensible environmentalist” but some, including a small group of protestors outside the event, claim he’s turned his back on the movement.
Moore said that saying trees are the answer brings up a host of questions — questions about our future in the world.
“It really begins with what should we build our homes with to be the most environmentally friendly, which is clearly wood,” he said during a pre-event interview. “What should we do to absorb more carbon from the air to make the air cleaner, the water cleaner and make good healthy soil — grow more trees. How can we provide the most habitats for birds, insects and other animals — that’s in the forest. How can we make the world more beautiful and green? With forests. What I try to explain in trees are the answer, is that they are the answer to a lot of questions. You just can’t focus on one or the other. You can’t just say let’s cut down all the trees and make things out of them and you can’t say don’t touch those trees because they are beautiful — you have to find a balance between the two.
“To me that’s where much of the environmental movement has become unbalanced in their approach to forests and forestry because basically they end up opposing the world’s most important renewable resource — both for energy and for materials.”
Moore said he has come to the conclusion that not only are trees and wood the most important renewable resource on this planet, by far, the more forests you grow, the better it is for the environment in general.
“For me it is helping to present a better understanding among the public on how important forestry is to British Columbia and how it is the most environmentally sustainable industry we have on this earth,” Moore said. “Look at all the other things we do — oil and gas, coal, all the minerals we mine — even agriculture destroys the whole ecosystem in order to grow our food, whereas forestry doesn’t destroy the ecosystem. Temporarily it sets it back in succession to a brand new painting, but it starts growing back right away.
“As long as we have protected areas where there is old growth maintained and as long as we look very carefully at how we are managing the landscape, it’s possible to keep all the species in a managed forest landscape.”
When asked the question do you still consider yourself an environmentalist, Moore said “absolutely.”
“That’s all I have done all my life. Some people give the impression that I have gone turncoat or something,” he said.
“I always supported forestry even when I was with Greenpeace. I grew up in the forestry industry. My family has been in it for 100 years and I know that it is renewable and that it is a very important industry for this world. I haven’t changed my position on the environmental issues I fought for during my 15 years on Greenpeace, but I saw the writing on the wall after 15 years when my fellow directors started adopting positions that I didn’t agree with — like being against aquaculture and forestry.
“What I believe is a much more practical understanding of the issues as they relate to the survival of human society in terms of what we actually can do and what we can’t do. Forestry provides about 70 per cent of all the renewable energy in the world and provides about 90 per cent of all the renewable materials in the world — just look at this building [the arts centre]. It’s all made of wood, so I think it’s very ironic, almost crazy, that the environmental movement’s policy is to use less wood, automatically meaning you use more concrete, plastic and steel, which definitely aren’t renewable and use a huge amount of more energy in their production. Wood is made from solar energy in the forest, from the sun. They are in favour of solar energy, in favour of renewable energy, but they are against using trees — that makes no sense.”
CCBA president Clark Hamilton said with the advent of their magazine, CCBA members made sustainability their main issue and thought Moore would be a great choice as their first speaker.
“One of the major issues we thought we could focus on was trees. We always hear how bad it is to cut down trees and to log. We’re hearing a lot of negative commentary and misinformation that seems to become truth. We thought Patrick would make a great candidate to come and speak about sustainability and talk about solutions as opposed to problems,” said Hamilton. “The best way to start this dialogue was to establish a speaker series that is conducive to an open dialogue. It’s about trying to discuss the issues openly and honestly with science in mind and not to serve one group over the other. We hope [the series] becomes an on-going dialogue that resonates with people.”