By Richard Bell
An estimated 600 people turned out for the Forest Funeral march in downtown Halifax on October 19. The marchers wound their way from Grand Parade Square through the city to a rally in front of Province House. The event was an expression of the growing outrage over the failure of the province to reduce the devastating forest losses caused by clear-cutting, whole tree harvesting, and herbicide spraying.
The Ecology Action Centre and the relatively new Healthy Forest Coalition sponsored the march, and the organizers were very pleased with the large turnout.
A sole trombonist led the march through the city, followed by six pallbearers carrying a coffin representing the devastated forests.
At Province House, the rally began with a brief talk from Melissa Labrador, a Mi’kmaq from southwestern Nova Scotia who then led a group smudging ceremony. Doreen Bernard, a member of the Sipekne’katik Mi’kmaq community, offered a prayer centered on the importance of water to all life.
The organizers invited speakers from all three political parties, but only the NDP accepted. NDP MLA Lisa Roberts urged the crowd to have hope. “We’re at the end of a difficult birth. …The end of labour is often the most difficult.”
Dr. Soren Nelson, an emeritus profession from Acadia University, argued that we know so little about how many species of plants and animals live in Nova Scotia forests that we are losing species through clearcutting that we don’t even know about. And he noted that the ever-declining number of workers in the forest sector gave the lie to industry and government claims that clearcutting created jobs.
The crowd also heard an impassioned speech calling for greater forest protections from biologist Bob Bancroft, who was inducted into the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame in 2013. Bancroft and Donna Crossland authored the 2010 report, “Natural Resources Strategy,” that called on the provincial government to, among other things, “reduce the proportion of wood harvested by the clear cut method to no more than 50% of all forested lands over a five-year period.” As Bancroft noted at the rally, successive provincial governments have fallen woefully short of this reduction in clear-cutting.
In one of the day’s more emotionally touching moments, singer/songwriter Ashley Moffit played a haunting song called “Who Cooks for You,” a subtle play on the call of the barred owl. Clearcutting endangers these birds because they require large dead trees for their nests.
For more information, check out the Healthy Forest Coalition’s website at: