Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


In Crisis Lies Opportunity

October 2, 2002

Talk about B.C.‘s coast these days is often bleak -the ‘crisis’ in the logging sector, softwood lumber tariffs, the need for coastal restructuring and resolving First Nations land issues. In a region known for conflict, there is agreement on one thing: the system is broken. How to put it back together is less clear.

But ‘In crisis there is opportunity,’ says an old Chinese proverb.

I believe those of us working on the coast have something to glean from that ancient wise one. Inventing something very different for the coast -transforming the current systems -may be the path to a creative and successful future. It also may be our only option. So, I say, dare to dream. What could the coast look like a decade from now? When I look forward I see B.C.‘s coast as an internationally recognized model of environmental and economic sustainability, a place celebrated for community and cultural revival. The key will be change -fundamental change to the economy, with no one industry ‘solving’ the economic challenges of the region. Communities will no longer have to rely on cutting high volumes of timber. We will have a diversified economy based on greater local ownership, and small business ventures based on quality. Tourism will be more fully established, with the rich cultural legacy of First Nations and the unparalleled wilderness experiences of the region becoming major draws. But tourism will be only one of an array of small business sectors that thrive on the coast.

As community businesses diversify, a new era of smart and innovative forest companies will emerge. Ecologically sustainable logging will be one important part of their operations. New forestry entrepreneurs will also have divisions profiting from non-timber forest products, like harvesting plants. Certification will be the norm, and value-added businesses will partner with forest companies to offer specialized wood products.

Truck Loggers Association members are uniquely positioned to benefit from the coming transition -and from partnerships with First Nations and coastal communities -if they embrace change and rise to the challenge of inventing a sustainable future for B.C.‘s coast.

The international market place, where B.C. sells the vast majority of its wood, wants these changes. The public increasingly demands that companies offer environmentally sustainable and socially responsible products. In a 1999 international survey by Environics International, 70 per cent of respondents said companies should be held completely responsible for ensuring no harm to the environment. In Canada, the number jumps to 78 per cent. Retailers are responding in kind to appeal to customer loyalty. Home Depot, the world’s largest timber retailer, stated, “By the end of 2002, we will eliminate from our stores wood from endangered areas and give preference to certified wood.” A promising market has opened up for wood products certified via the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This provides a huge base of potential customers for companies willing to reform their logging practices and respect the FSC auditing process.

Home Depot has been purchasing FSC-certified wood products since 1999. Many other major companies are now giving preference to FSC, including Lowe’s, the second largest lumber retailer in the United States, and Anderson Corporation, the leading U.S. manufacturer of wood for windows and doors. Some of the world’s largest and most influential retailers are demanding change. Can we step up to the challenge?

A number of First Nations, logging corporations, and environ- mental groups like ForestEthics have started on this new path, working together to invent a new approach to forest conservation and forest practices, linking this with jobs and economic diversity for communities. This includes capitalizing on the global interest in seeing our rainforests protected, and seeking new conservation investments to help us create the future we envision.

It’s up to all of us to seize the opportunity before us and forge a prosperous future for B.C.‘s forestry communities’ -one grounded in healthy, sustainable economies and peerless environmental stewardship. If we engage together with vision and creativity, the coast will be a world-class model of healthy communities, sustainable small businesses and conservation values -a source of pride for British Columbians and all Canadians.

‘In crisis. there is opportunity’ -the choice really is ours!