“It is the future of young people that is at stake,” says organizer
Protecting old growth forests has been a crucial issue in British Columbia’s recent history. The most prominent contemporary case of old growth protection is happening on the island, with Blockaders rallying to protect the Fair Creek Rainforest on Pacheedaht Territory from logging. This is not only a stand against old growth logging on the island, but also against province-wide deforestation.
Elders for Ancient Trees is a group that supports the efforts of Indigenous land stewards and activists defending old growth. Originally, they formed as a group of settler-elders to show solidarity with and provide food to those protesting at Fairy Creek. They also took action in Victoria, including gathering at the Legislature to lay on the road claiming to be 600- to 2 000-year-old cedar trees with the goal of creating awareness for the situation.
Jackie Larkin, one of the organizers, told the Martlet that the group now has eyes on a new goal.
“[Over] the last year and a bit, we have pivoted the organization to focusing on protection of old growth in the province as a whole,” said Larkin. “We came to the conclusion that we need to put maximum pressure on the provincial government to … actually implement what they said they were going to implement and to protect the old-growth throughout the province.”
They currently have a declaration with over 190 signatories who stand united against the destruction of old growth forests.
In this declaration, the organization demands, among other key actions, that the government implement the 14 recommendations made by the Old Growth Strategic Review panel. These recommendations include ways to create conditions for effective change, immediate responses to protect ecosystems at high risk, improved management of old forest areas, and a better informed understanding that transition planning occurs at municipal and provincial levels of government.
These recommendations were promised to be implemented as part of the B.C. NDP’s 2020 election campaign. However, over two years later, minimal effort has been shown towards meeting the three year timeframe originally established to implement them.
Despite the name, Elders for Ancient Trees is working for and with the younger generation. “It’s so important to protect old-growth from everybody’s perspective,” said Larkin. “As elders, many of us are thinking about future generations.” She added that old growth plays a vital role in biodiversity, wildlife habitat, cooling the planet, and filtering carbon emissions.
The organization is looking to create more dialogue about the need to protect old growth, and is doing so by unconventional means. Aside from laying on the road in front of the Legislature, the group also performs flashmobs. In December, they used this approach to “disrupt the normal patterns of behaviour” at The Bay Centre downtown. They performed another flashmob on Feb. 9 in UVic’s Mystic Market, hoping to bring attention, and perhaps new volunteers, to their cause.
Currently, Elders for Ancient Trees is helping to organize United We Stand for Old Growth Forests, which they hope becomes the biggest rally in support of old growth protection. On Feb. 25, protesters will meet at Centennial Square and walk to the Legislature. Many artists and key speakers will be in attendance. Larkin says this rally aims to shine light on the need for “really clear-eyed and decisive action by governments to stop this logging.”
“We are at a falling off … point,” she added. “It is the future of young people that is at stake.”
With the promises of the NDP government not being realized, it is time for all generations to come together to hold the government accountable, and to protect old-growth forests across the province.