Chronicles

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 alone.

        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.

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