by Dr. Suzanne Simard —
With another wildfire, flooding and drought season upon us – one that is forecasted to be the same if not worse than last year for British Columbia and already causing a state of emergency in other parts of the country – it is abundantly clear that the province’s forests are in desperate need of nurturing and communities are gasping for change.
A recent Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) library speaking tour was a profound reminder of what so many community members are eager to hear more about – how to protect their communities from further climate change and forest loss devastation.
Instead of wanting to hear more about the home-grown award-winning book and writing process, TNRD residents from libraries throughout the region repeatedly asked questions about what they can do to ensure their communities can remain healthy and intact for generations to come.
Among the most vocal were Merritt citizens. From referencing the Mother Tree lessons being taught at the high school to asking about how the community can streamline their efforts when it comes to recycling building supplies, the group in attendance for the talk was deeply engaged. They came from all parts of the region, including nearby Indigenous communities who are already routinely engaging in healthy forests practices.
What community residents heard consistently was the time has come to spread a Mother Tree Network message and that is to mobilize together to advance forest policy change and economic innovation.
B.C. communities, particularly forest-dependent communities, are seeing the ongoing impact of climate change outside their front doors. Throughout the TNRD and other parts of the province, they live with neighborhood reminders of what extreme climatic conditions can do to the natural landscape. Flood, drought and fire alerts are commonplace in these communities now. Not to mention talk of recovery efforts after natural disasters occur.
Through communities rallying together to call for nature-based solutions such as land stewardship being guided by First Nations and local communities or stronger policies being developed for protection of old and primary forests, voices will be heard. And government officials need that input to help guide them in developing policy that will reflect what a growing body of scientific evidence is already showing us – clearcut logging and fire-prone industrial plantations contribute to things like flood and landslide risks because those lost forests are no longer there to hold soil or sediment in place and channel precipitation underground. A growing body of scientific evidence is even showing us that the biodiversity loss resulting from global deforestation is not only impacting plant species and animal population counts but also overall human health.
TNRD residents showed they don’t believe there is any time to waste when it comes to saving our planet. Through these library visits, they demonstrated an inherent understanding of the little time we have left to reconfigure our land management policies and practices.
It was mentioned throughout the tour so worthy of mentioning again – conserving our forests is the fastest and most effective way to stabilize our climate so let’s get even busier now and make sure we are doing it together.
UBC Faculty of Forestry professor Dr. Suzanne Simard is the author of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest and leads the Mother Tree Project and Network.