FORESTOPIA: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE NEW FOREST ECONOMY
Michael M'Gonigle and Ben Parfitt
Reviewed by Peter Croskery
Reviewed by Peter Croskery
Volume 22 Number 6
For most Canadians, the impression of B.C. logging is greatly biased by the media images of recent years. Few of us have not heard of Clayoquot Sound or South Moresby. And as witnesses to these events, most of us have found our sympathies aligned with one side or the other.
Forestopia is about B.C. logging. But rather than focusing on the conflict in a single area, it attempts to examine the broad picture of logging throughout the province. Its fundamental thesis is that the entire provincial industry is in need of revamping. This need is based not only on environmental concerns but also on economic and social needs: "... the history of forestry in BC is a history of the constant decline of the number of jobs per unit of volume of wood."
Regardless of which side of the B.C. logging controversies you should find yourself on, Forestopia is a book worth reading. It clearly points out the significance of logging to the B.C. economy--the jobs created, the dollars generated, and the social benefits that result. At the same time, it clearly points out some of the environmental costs associated with this activity--declining rain forests, loss of critical habitat, and impact on water quality.
Citing a variety of sources, including government reports, commission hearings and technical literature, Forestopia presents detailed factual information. It is not simply a passionate plea for change. It is a solid argument that demonstrates the need for change. "If our wholesale plunder of old growth and the social dislocation that flows from it isn't what we want, then we must change the way we live. We must embark on an Ecological Revolution ...".
The case presented by M'Gonigle and Parfitt clearly demonstrates the need for change within the forest industry. They point out how whole communities are at the whim of the industry. Logging creates jobs, but, when the trees are cut, industry walks away, leaving a community infrastructure without a financial foundation.
But rather than simply reviewing the social and economic impacts of logging on B.C. life, forestopia offers an alternative. The alternative proposed is "the need to shift from a volume based economy of mass production to a value oriented industry of specialized product." Instead of large volumes of cheap rough-cut lumber being exported, more wood product needs to be "finished" in B.C. before exporting. This is "value-added"--jobs and dollars generated from B.C. forests additional to the cut.
Forestopia is well written, well organized and, as mentioned, contains a lot of supporting factual information. Although it focuses exclusively on the B.C. situation, many of the scenarios have parallels in other locations in Canada.
I would strongly recommend this book to any person wishing to gain a better understanding of the complexities of Canadian forestry.
Peter Croskery in Grimsby, Ontario, is a biologist, freelance writer and instructor specializing in environmental issues.
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