Trouble In The Woods
Forest Policy and Social Conflict in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
edited by L. Anders Sandberg, Fredericton: Acadiensis
A book review by David Orton
Trouble In The
Woods is a book of essays, which brings a blow-by-blow historical perspective,
document the process of consolidation
of power by the forest industry and the provincial government, and
to record the struggles of the men
and women challenging that power structure." But the main theme is of
the emergence and dominance of the
pulp and paper industry in the two Maritime provinces, assisted by
provincial and federal governments.
Another theme is a helpful, historical discussion of woodlot owner
organizing in New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia, and the organizing of province-wide Pulpwood
Marketing Boards, successful in N.B.,
unsuccessful in N.S. There are also two N.B. sawmilling studies,
and articles on forest policy and legislation,
and land ownership in N.S. The book is heavily footnoted
and written from the perspective of
There are eight
essays in this book, plus an introduction and a conclusion. Two of the essays
French. There are abstracts of each
essay in the other language. The contributors, as listed, with perhaps
one exception, are academics: L. Anders
Sandberg, Raymond Léger, Serge Côté, Nancy Colpitts,
Bill Parenteau, Peter Clancy, Glyn
Bissix, and Kell Antoft.
This book is quite
unlike other recent forestry books being used by activists in the Maritimes,
come out of actual involvement on the
ground, such as Maine-based Mitch Lansky's, Beyond the Beauty
Strip: Saving What's Left of Our Forests;
or B.C.-based Herb Hammond's, Seeing The Forest
Among the Trees: The Case For Wholistic
Forest Use; or the pamphlet, The Forests Of
Newfoundland: An Alternative View,
by the Humber Environment Action Group Forest Committee;
and the recent Clearcut: The Tragedy
Of Industrial Forestry, with its essays by activists and pictures
of clearcuts from Canada and the U.S.
which touch the soul.
The essays have
an anthropocentric orientation and are mainly about some "human" troubles,
those faced by woodlot owners, forest
and pulpmill workers, and logging contractors. The habitat needs,
for example, of pine marten or pileated
woodpeckers - which are destroyed by pulpwood forestry, are not
part of the discourse.
by Clancy and Sandberg, "Maritime Forest Sector Development: A Question
Choices", gives an interesting
overview. However, it also shows clearly the basic assumptions and limitations,
of the "left" (social democratic) perspective
in this book.
Readers will find that:
- "Development" is good and unquestioned.
- Pulp mills are good and we need "the
goal of maximum production" in the forests of the Maritimes.
- "The closure of plants is never welcome",
but worker ownership with state support is okay. Presumably,
the poisons discharged
by such worker-controlled mills or the type of pulpwood forestry which would
such mills, is okay.
- The intervention of the State is
needed to solve the problems of woodlot owners or pulpmill workers.
- Woodlot owners and pulp and paper
mill workers are not part of the problem, in regards to what is happening
in and to the woods.
- Wood is a "resource", and Sweden
is the model for how it should be grown, utilized, and the spoils divided.
to what is put forward in Trouble In The Woods, (and by some voices
within the pulp
and paper industry itself), is no model
for forestry in the Maritimes. While Sweden has solved the problem of
growing "timber" through tree plantations,
this has been at the expense of the biodiversity of its original forests.
From an ecological perspective, the
Swedish model shows how to destroy the original forest ecology and yet
how to do well economically for the
industry - and woodlot owners. It is a "successful" example of the industrial
development model, under social democratic
guidance. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, in its
English pamphlet, Sweden:
Timber vs. Forest, says that many common forest species of plants, animals
fungi, have declined dramatically because
of Swedish production-oriented timber growing. That there are now
1,000 forest species on the official
endangered species list.
severely impacts on human communities. But social progress cannot be identified
"development", that is, economic growth.
Ultimately, any social perspective on the forests, has to take account
of what Wolfgang Sachs has called,
reinventing economic institutions, so that people can "live gracefully
without making them prisoners of the
pernicious drive to accumulate". Most forestry activists will see this
book, as written by persons not practically
involved in fighting the forest industry and its destruction of the
plants, animals and microorganisms,
which make up the Acadian forest community, as well as being bound
by the social democratic assumptions
of the good life. This then becomes reflected in the analysis. There is
no alternative green vision of the
forest offered, rooted in a belief that the forest has to be valued in its
right, irrespective of any usefulness
for human needs, and that economics has to be subordinate to ecology.
Modern industrial "forestry" in the
Maritimes, as elsewhere, which has embraced the pulpwood forestry
paradigm, eliminates social and ecological
options. Pulpwood monocultures in forestry, develop side by side
with global cultural monocultures.
Printed in Canadian Dimension,
October-November 1994, Vol. 28, No. 5. A shortened
version published in Wild Lands Advocate,
the news quarterly of the Alberta Wilderness Association, October
1993, under the title, "No Green Vision Of The Forest."
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