Where will it all end?
I am becoming more convinced, as I grow older, that I am slipping. At
least it seems that I can no longer grasp some concepts that seem
self-evident, and beyond questioning, to just about everyone else.
I have recently spent considerable time studying the Jaako Poyry report
on New Brunswick's forest management practices, together with its
recommendations for improvements in those practices. More recently, on
November 25th, I spent a rather long, but very interesting, day listening
to briefs and presentations to the committee empowered to hold public
consultations on the report. Speaker after speaker, both those in favour
of the report and those who took exception to various aspects of it,
seemed to accept as a given that one of the central recommendations - that
New Brunswick forests can be coerced into producing twice as much wood in
forty years time as they do now - is possible, if not desirable.
In a purely abstract sense I think that I can understand just how this
might happen. I bog down, though, when I try to imagine what the end
result will be, whenever the end is finally reached.I say that because I
cannot accept that, in forty years time, we will be any further ahead than
we are right now. I cannot convince myself that anything - a microbe, a
bird, a forest, or an economy can continue to grow forever. We may well be
able to double wood supply in forty years, but does that lead to a demand
for a further doubling over the following forty? And what after that? At
what point does New Brunswick become nothing more than a massive tree
plantation? Is that the desired end of programs such as the one currently
being touted as the solution to our economic woes? If it is not, where is
the break off point? Jaako Poyry recommends that forty percent of Crown
Land (our land) be converted to plantations; will its successor, thirty or
forty years down the road, be pushing for eighty percent? Sixty? Again,
when is enough,enough?
Why does it not make sense to argue, instead, that we are finally
learning to do a credible job of managing our forest resources - albeit
slowly and at times reluctantly - and that we would be far wiser to adopt
a policy of living within our means? Why do economists, governments, and
industry continue to push the logical fallacy that growth is the only way
to survive, especially when anyone should be able to see the ultimate
collapse of the resource - and the idea.
I wonder how many of the proponents of this idea have taken the time to
imagine just what such an intensely managed landscape will look like in
forty, or sixty, or eighty years. Do we even care? There are those
benighted souls who have suggested that they don't expect to be around to
see the end result - and why should they care? ( I am often grateful for
little things, and one of them is that I don't have to suffer like
intelligent people in Alberta must when their premier makes one of his
gratuitously mindless pronouncements.) No, I really don't expect to be
around either, but I do care. You see, I have two little granddaughters.
Every time we get together, especially when they visit up here, I hustle
them out to the woods, or out on the river in my kayak. I am engaged in a
systematic attempt to twist their little minds with subversive thoughts
and values - that this is a beautiful world in which we live, and that
much of that beauty is to be found in places where people leave things
It is a fantasy, probably another indicator of my declining
intellectual skills, that some of that world might still exist for them
when they have children and grandchildren of their own.