With the funeral for the Acadian Forest just a week away now (see attached poster below), Peter Ritchie would like to offer the following eulogy for publication…
As we witness the demise of Nova Scotia’s mixed Acadian Forest, I would like to reflect upon just a few, particular aspects of this once majestic ecosystem. I first became familiar with the Acadian Forest less than fifty years ago, a length of time on the order currently allowed for a forest ‘crop’ to ‘mature’ in this province. My acquaintance is a mere snapshot on a life line that stretches back thousands and thousands of years, long before European colonization of this land.
Having known Nova Scotia’s native ecosystem for such a short time, I don’t feel I have had the opportunity to truly appreciate and understand this unique and complex environment, before having it taken away. Such is the way with death, I suppose. You often don’t realize what you have, until it is gone; all too often taken away too early, by senseless tragedy. Under decades upon decades of government mis-management and industry greed, this was the fate of the Acadian Forest in this province.
So what have I come to understand about Nova Scotia’s natural habitat, in the brief time I have known it?
1.) I have learned where it came from, in the most literal sense:
It turns out that, contrary to common belief, trees do not grow out of the ground! In fact, about 95% of a tree’s dry mass comes directly from CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere. Try to carefully consider this fact for a moment. Think of the thousands of tonnes of carbon capture capability destroyed, every year, under the negligent stewardship of Nova Scotia’s government. This at a time when the same government cannot even clearly articulate and adopt the simplest of carbon pricing mechanisms, in the face of impending, catastrophic climate change.
2.) I have determined where the Acadian Forest has gone:
Once old growth forests, present at colonization, were razed for agriculture, timber harvest and general empire-building, the leavings were regularly ‘harvested’, on ever-shortening crop cycles, using increasingly destructive methods. By the latter half of the last century, the pulp and paper industry, consistently subsidized by government, had its boot firmly on the throat of the Acadian Forest in this province. The diversity of native species was being replaced by herbicide-sprayed mono-cultures. Clear cutting had increasingly become the harvest method of choice – as it was just this past year, with almost 90% of all trees harvested in this province coming from clear cuts. It’s not just the paper industry and low-value lumber market that have become the final resting places for the Acadian Forest. Annually now, Nova Scotia sends tens of thousands of tonnes of wood pellets to Europe to be burned in funeral pyres, producing some of the dirtiest electricity ever made. Even our own province uses the shredded corpses of the Acadian Forest to make some of our own ‘green’ electricity, again, subsidized by the Nova Scotia Government.
3.) Finally, I have come to understand that the Acadian Forest is so much more than trees:
With the demise of the Acadian Forest, we mourn the loss of countless animal and plant species, both terrestrial and aquatic, that have evolved, literally over eons, to be complexly intertwined and interdependent on one another. An ecosystem like the Acadian Forest is one of the most complex living entities on this planet. Deforestation, especially by means of clear cutting, destroys myriad habitats (often permanently), causes soil degradation and acidification, drives eutrophication of water ways and wetlands, and eradicates endangered species, to mention but a few outcomes. Depraved indifference to the ‘life’ of the Acadian Forest is leading to the demise of so many more living things than trees. It is a sad time, indeed.
In conclusion, as we bear witness to the death of the Acadian Forest in Nova Scotia, I would like to offer some sage words from poet Jack Johnson. To be certain, both government and corporate interests have mediated this untimely demise, but we all, as a society, must acknowledge our role in the matter.
“It was you, it was me, it was every man,
We’ve all got the blood on our hands
We only receive what we demand,
If we want hell, then hell’s what we’ll have…”
from Cookie Jar, by Jack Johnson