To the Editor, Eastern Shore Co-operator:
Behind the trees that line my road, there's a large fifteen-year-old clearcut. On the map, it just shows as a small coloured circle, a spot that is now designated “cut”. But the reality is far different.
When we moved here, we could walk back into those woods on woods roads. We saw mayflowers in spring, deep moss covering the ground, an osprey’s nest in a clearing. Our boys played in small camps they built, creating memories of forest walks and connections to the natural world.
Statistics and data tell us the numbers of hectares of forests being clearcut, and the years it takes for these forests to grow back; maps show coloured areas of clearcutting. Seeing this dry data, we may be momentarily shocked, but then we move on. This loss only matters deeply to us if we have experienced it first hand.
Recently I spoke to the woman who grew up in this house where I have lived for 30 years. The woods were still alive in her heart and memory. Then I told her they had been clearcut, and now she is grieving this profound loss, as do I, and all our neighbours.
That is the difference between data and statistics and a lived experience. Woods are not just “fibre.” They are not only a commodity, to be cut and cut and cut until the harvest is matchsticks and the soil dries out to desert. They are our lived connection to our planet, to the earth’s biosphere that we are all part of. They are our basic nourishment, preserving our clean air and water.
However, in the same way that we do not grieve (most of us) deaths of unknown persons, we do not grieve the death of abstract pieces of forest far removed from us. We do not sense the loss of a particular stand of trees, the sweetness of the light through the birch at dusk, the sound of the brook. We are far removed from the losses of Caribou Mines, or Moose River, where Atlantic Gold has already stripped the earth of its vegetation and is preparing to start an open pit gold mine where a forest ecosystem once flourished. In our snug homes we do not hear other people's favourite woods being felled, all over our province. That is where our imagination needs to empower our outrage. Just how much devastation will it take?