Clearcutting shortchanges the Yukon’s future
Open letter to Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie,
It was with shock I heard the news that the Yukon government and Champagne/Aishihik First Nations will offer the forest industry one million cubic metres of timber for harvesting from the Haines Junction region.
To my knowledge, this announcement happened without any prior public access to the plan, nor was the public given the opportunity to comment.
As a resident, I feel disrespected by the government for not providing an avenue for public input on this extremely important issue.
This forestry plan, along with a few others slated for this area, brings some disturbing points to mind:
First, why is forestry being pursued as a viable economic activity in the boreal forest region of Canada where trees grow extremely slowly?
Second, the wood in the Haines Junction region has next to no market value.
Third, the jobs created would be short-term.
Fourth, valuable buffer habitat next to Kluane National Park would be seriously compromised.
And fifth, large cutblocks would scar this magnificent landscape.
I have visited many natural areas in the world and, sadly, I have also seen the environmental degradation that often exists beside these places.
I also used to live in Alberta which, unfortunately, is now a checkerboard of logging clear-cuts, industrial development, and roads — national and provincial parks have become islands.
What makes the Kluane region special, and what makes the Yukon and even Canada unique, is the fact that we live with one of the largest wilderness areas left on the Earth.
People come here from all over the world each year to see and experience it.
We now have a tremendous opportunity and duty to our children to develop jobs and community plans that do not follow the destructive patterns seen everywhere else — those patterns have brought our planet to a point of no return.
If clearcut logging is pursued in this region, it means we don’t give a damn about future generations, or what we do in our backyard, the Yukon, Canada and the world.
Children’s Act lacks
It is interesting how this (the death of seven-week-old Samara Sky Olson), and other similar situations, do not account for the fact that Justina Ellis has an extremely debilitating disability, FASD.
It was not addressed after Ellis’ first incident of violence, nor were the other issues in her life.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders could cause memory lapses, lack of impulse control and poor judgment.
People with FASDs are emotionally fragile and their responses to stress are often erratic, inappropriate or volatile.
The social development of a teenager or adult with FASDs is stunted at about the level of a six to eight year old.
They can act as adults, but inside, many of them function as children.
In persons with FASDs, there are not as many pathways between the two sides of the brain, so information is passed slowly or ineffectively.
This may account, in part, for why a person with FASD has an impulse to do something, and may not realize the consequences until later, after the fact.
They know and understand the consequences but, because of brain damage, are unable to think before they act.
Knowing this information, we as a society need to provide structure, support and supervision for people with FASDs.
The degree of need varies from person to person and can be determined through a FASD-specific assessment.
We need to recognize there are many people affected by prenatal alcohol exposure living in the Yukon, and must start building in supports for everyone’s safety and security.
Pretending affected people are not ‘disabled enough’ to need support, then blaming affected individuals for displaying the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on their central nervous system, will always result in disaster for the individual and other community members.
While many of the recommendations about changes to the Children’s Act may be useful for some people, they still do not address the need that most parents with FASD-affected children have for ongoing intensive support.
Judy Pakozdy, executive director of FASSY
Prepare for drought
One often reads, these days, about upcoming freshwater shortages and their potential for conflict.
It might be useful to ask if this situation is part of a much bigger picture, because such questions may dictate our efforts to adapt to an increasingly dry land.
How much drier are our landmasses than they used to be?
The fossil record shows Earth was once far more hospitable to life than it is now.
There was a time when rainforests were global, covering even Antarctic regions.
Over the ages, one continent after another has become arid.
Australia was once covered with forest; now it is mostly arid and its remaining green areas are drying out as well.
There was a time, just after the last ice age, when the now-parched US Southwest looked like BC does today.
And BC itself doesn’t get the rain it once did.
Dustbowl conditions are now a regular occurrence in the Prairies.
The Sahara Desert is, according to some, of even more recent origins than the Southwestern US.
Now it grows relentlessly southward as the Kalahari grows north, squeezing the African rainforest in a decreasing band of equatorial green.
Beijing, once in a temperate zone, is now regularly choked by sandstorms from the ever-nearer Gobi desert.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s snowcap is entirely gone, and the snowcaps around Whitehorse haven’t looked too healthy these past few years either — where will we get our water when the runoff runs out?
These are but a few examples.
There are myriad instances, worldwide, of deserts which were once forests, but few — if any — of the reverse.
Once the dunes march in, it seems to be a one-way change, irrevocable.
As the continental deserts continue to expand, more and more people will scramble for less and less available fresh water.
The mega-cities, where the majority of humans are flocking, will inevitably suck the world’s land dry (of whatever water isn’t diverted for factory-farming), as well as cause the remaining forests to be hacked down for building materials and cheap fuel for massive slums. We didn’t begin the desiccation of Earth’s landmasses, but we certainly seem to be accelerating the process.
Once the resources run out, denizens of the cities will have to abandon them (as did the Mayans and the Mesopotamians) and live off lands bereft of most resources.
Desert-survival skills will separate those who perish from those who hang on a little longer.
Who will have those skills?
It’s hard to say: the Bedouin, Mongol, !Kung and other peoples with such skills have been pressured, by nearby governments, to settle in the cities. That’s not exactly long-range thinking.
There is no reason to suppose that Earth’s life-sustaining capacity was ever more than just a phase in the planet’s existence.
Earth was here long before life began on it, and the planet may be here long after all life on it is extinct.
We have a choice: we can act intelligently to help extend the planet’s life-sustaining period, or we can act stupidly and hasten the day when Earth might as well be renamed ‘Mars’, for all the difference there will be between the two worlds.
That is the choice facing us.
I wrote this letter while standing in the middle of the Yukon River … or where it usually flows at any rate.
A dry riverbed, at this time of year?