Forests are essential to our ecosystems, providing a home to so many animals and a place for people to go and be active, breathe fresh air, explore and get connected with nature providing an outlet for mental health recuperation. Our forests are soo essential to the earth, animals and people, we must not lose them.
Ancient forests are valuable in so many ways. They are socially and spiritually valuable as places of refuge, reflection, and respite. They connect us in a tangible and living way to our ancestors and the deep past. As an historian, I find it deeply moving to think that many trees on Vancouver Island were already quite old when Notre Dame de Paris was first being built. They are economically valuable as sites of eco-tourism, and many people travel to and within British Columbia to be close to our living giants. (Hence the response from the Chamber of Commerce in Port Renfrew about proposed cut blocks near the Juan de Fuca trail.) They are environmentally valuable in so many ways, including as habitat for countless other creatures, as central nodes in mycelium networks (that transfer nutrients between trees), and for their ecosystem services, especially carbon sequestration. Part of the climate solution is to leave these forests alone, since they sequester vast quantities of carbon. Any society that values a holistic understanding of 'value' would want to conserve remaining old-growth forests.
Growing up, I thought I understood what a forest was, but it wasn’t until a cold and wet spring morning when I was 20 years old that I had a true awakening. Standing in the Carmanah Valley 26 years ago, I realized that until then I had never really been in a forest before – not a forest where the layers of life and vitality were as tall as the trees whose tops I could not even see. I did not know there were that many shades of green. I did not know the quality of sound could be so different, that the air could feel alive, that water could saturate every molecule. I did not know what had been lost in those clear cuts that we’d driven through to get to the Carmanah until I woke up to discover what an old growth forest really is. I did not know the perfect beauty of an intact forest.
Beauty matters. Natural beauty reminds us that this world is a precious and delicate place, and that our role on this planet has to go far beyond figuring out how we can make money off of it.
Trees in old-growth forests are the oldest creatures on earth and they have so much more to teach us. Our short-term approach to forest management does not allow the time it takes to understand life at the scale of 200, 300 or 400 years. Trees are not just fibre for our exploitation, they are the foundation of life on Planet Earth. Perhaps that is why 18,000 people have emailed me about old trees. Because we know deep down in our hearts that the government’s current approach to forestry is perilous.