Forests going down the toilet

Pretty well everyone I know here in the Pontiac has an opinion - and a strong one, I might add - about logging.

And why not?

Since the 1800s, logging has been a primary industry and hence, a source of income here in the Ottawa Valley. In 2001, people’s jobs and livelihoods still depend on wood.

Logging not only feeds the primary industry workers, the people who do the felling. The subsidiary industries that depend upon these raw timbers are legion. As a writer, I depend on paper for my work, for instance, because my words are published on paper as well as on the Internet. Yes, despite my yearning for a “paperless office,” the concept seems even more of a rude joke than it did a few years ago, when the phrase first became popular.

Let’s face it: we all depend upon trees for our day-to-day lives. Some of the most genuine environmentalists I know live in log houses, or build cedar strip canoes. And, at the craft fairs, some of the most hip woodworkers use rainforest woods.

But, amid all of this admission of personal dependency upon felling and processing trees, I must add that I’m extremely uncomfortable about what’s going on in the industry. So I ask you to search your soul: aren’t you?

For example, who among us would agree that ancient, old-growth timber should be cut down, shipped abroad, and then used for toilet paper?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon use “TP” that comes from a different source than clear-cut, coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia.

For those of you who are statistic freaks, check out these stats.

“Canadian logging giant, Interfor cuts approximately 3.4 million cubic metres of temperate rainforest each year, largely through clearcuts of up to 40 hectares - the size of around 60 soccer pitches. Despite concerns over its environmental impact, clearcutting remains the dominant harvesting method in Canada.” [Greenpeace website, press clip from 16 February 2001
“Greenpeace demands Hong Kong and China to stop buying rainforest destruction.”]

Interfor was in the news on 16 February yet again, this time because 40 Greenpeace activists boarded a Norwegian ship bound for Livorno, Italy. The cargo was “several thousand tonnes of pulp from the companies Norske Skog and Canfor, both major buyers of Interfor wood extracted from British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.”

That particular coastal rainforest is habitat to the rare white bear, the Spirit Bear.

I heard the news about this Greenpeace blockade on the CBC radio news last week. Serigo Baffoni of Greenpeace Italy commented, “Italy is the fourth largest pulp importer from British Columbia, with annual imports for 191 million dollars. This pulp is destined for Italian paper mills producing goods such as paper tissues and toilet paper. We are literally flushing these last temperate rainforest down the toilet. Greenpeace urges the Italian industry to stop using pulp which causes the destruction of ancient forests.”

If you want further information on the state of Canada’s logging industry, visit the Greenpeace website at

I’ll warn you, it’s not a pretty site. It will get your blood boiling if you care about sustainable management of our Canadian forests. If it doesn’t, it ought to get you annoyed. Why? Because where is the toilet paper of the future going to come from if we clear-cut these rainforests?

But not all news is bad. Laurel Brewster, Sierra Club environmentalist, is doing her best to work within the logging fraternity to educate professional foresters about the environmental movement and its legitimate questions and issues.

And Ms Brewster was oh-so-smart. She worked devilishly hard to become the top-scorer in British Columbia’s provincial exam for professional foresters. All BC foresters must pass this exam to become registered. And, by tradition, the person with the highest mark gets to deliver the valedictory speech to the Association of Registered Professional Foresters.

Hmm. What a great audience, she must have thought. Clever lady.

The young, pig-tailed Ms Brewster used her hour-long speech to inform her audience that they must become stewards and guardians of the land.

You see, Ms. Brewster works for the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. A February 24 Citizen article describes her job as “training citizen watchdogs to recognize and report forest code violations.”

In her valedictory address, she said, “When I say ‘conservation’ I mean more than setting aside a percentage of protected areas. I mean making sure that no matter how we use our forest resources, we do it in a way that makes sure the forests, and all they support, will survive forever.”

How was her speech received by her mostly male peers? Citizen correspondent David Beers notes she was “rewarded with warm applause. And, here and there in the crowd, a few of her fellow professionals, all of them new inductees, rose to their feet to offer her a standing ovation.”

Bravo, Ms. Brewster!

But wait, Mr. Beers also notes that BC Liberal MLA George Abbot, the opposition’s forestry critic, says that his party will “spend $24 million on an anti-environmentalist media campaign.”

In Mr. Abbot’s liberal words, “It’s time to tell the world we’re proud of our forest practices. And we won’t be bullied out of our forests and our markets.”

Two speakers. Two radically different viewpoints. Same response: warm applause.

Pass the toilet paper.


Horsie types will want to head to the March 2 meeting at the Luskville Recreational Centre (adjacent to the Town Hall) at 7:00 p.m. for the annual meeting of the Gatineau Hills Trail Riders’Association. The topics are what have been done on the trail, what is to be done this year on the trail and information on the passes, price etc. For information, contact Gerald or Cheryl Storey at 458-1172.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based near Quyon, Québec. Contact her at and check out her website & writing at