The destroyers have come and done their worst. For more than a week we endured the agonizing death-rattle of life being ripped, ground and torn from a once vibrant, living forest. Now the clearcutters have gone somewhere else to create more desolation, leaving behind them the silence of death where a once vibrant ecosystem used to resound with the lovely harmonies of life and growth.
No more will the beautiful chorus of frogs that so delighted us with their evening songs be heard. Their home in a little bog just down the road has been obliterated. So too have the homes and habitats of all the lovely birds that used to sing joyous morning tributes to the renewal of life. The wondrous, life-giving forest where moose and deer were once common is now a gut-wrenching series of ugly scars slashed on the face of the earth. There is nothing so desolate as the silence of death where life once abounded.
Our area is part of the Acadian Forest, and home to 32 native tree species (yellow birch, red spruce, American beech, sugar maple) providing habitat for wide-ranging mammal and bird populations. Today less than one per cent of original old Acadian forest remains, and the clearcutting rampage continues. A private woodlot next to us was sold recently, and the new owner immediately clearcut it.
We’ve dried our tears after yet another assault – this one visible from our kitchen window – on what some call Mother Earth or Turtle Island, others the Creation, and still others simply the environment.
Do the agents of destruction and desolation now devouring our forests in a feeding frenzy really think we humans are separate from the delicate web of life that they so greedily chew up and spit out? How do they ignore the fact that clearcutting forests means accelerating the sheer madness of climate change, which melts the polar ice caps, thus leading to ever more frequent and severe pandemics. Can they really imagine that somehow, some way, their own children and grandchildren will not pay a very heavy price indeed for such wanton destruction of that which sustains life?
I do not believe that, even now, the clearcutters or the fools who have authorized their rampage and rape of our common heritage know what they do. I do not believe any parent worthy of the name would willingly sacrifice his or her children on the altar of corporate profit. What do you say to those who, despite all that has happened to Mother Earth, persist in touting our culture of death as being the best of all possible worlds?
We have created our culture of death by pretending that we are somehow above and separate from the very things that sustain our lives. We may live in the developed world, but our moral, spiritual and intellectual poverty is immense, and heartbreaking for all those who love life. We live in a world of pretense. We pretend that we are immune to the effects of the greed and ignorance that our governments promote. We pretend that we are not dependent on the very life-support systems we systematically destroy.
Our forests, and our future, are being destroyed before our eyes because governments here serve corporate greed rather than the common good. Eighty per cent of total areas harvested have been harvested through clearcutting in the past 25 years, according to the 2015 Auditor General’s report on silviculture. In her report, Kim MacPherson sounded the alarm about the provincial government ignoring the many studies calling for reduced clearcutting. She noted that selective and partial cutting methods are the best management practices because they protect waterways, wildlife habitat, and preserve a healthy range of plant and animal life. MacPherson was ignored, and the macabre dance of death that is New Brunswick’s forest management policy continues.
How can we be so blind to the self-mutilation that is clearcutting? If someone vandalized our property the way we pillage our environment, we would demand legal action against that person, even compensation and reparation for such anti-social and illegal behavior. We have laws to protect our personal possessions, but none to protect our common heritage that sustains our very life.
What happens to the children if we fail to come to our senses and open our eyes to the obvious fact that our very survival is dependent on the survival of Mother Earth, or the Creation, or simply the environment. Crimes against nature are crimes against ourselves. Make no mistake about it, our psychotic sense of being separate and above that which we plunder will exact a heavy price on our children and grandchildren. They will serve the sentence for our crimes against the earth and, perhaps, pay the ultimate penalty. For today, however, the destruction of our forests continues daily and the sound of silence spreads.
Dallas McQuarrie is a father, grandfather and retired journalist living on unceded Mi’kmaq territory in St. Ignace, Kent County.