What's All This Got to Do with the Price of 2 x 4's?
Contains Photos, Illustrations
David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.
Forester Mike Apsey was deputy minister of forests in British Columbia, 1978–84, then president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, 1984–98. He has worked in widely different foreign countries, sometimes on behalf of international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
Apsey’s memoir is of a life of professional accomplishment, informed by an imaginative blend of realism and vision. His conception of the forest and its dilemmas is one of a perpetual flux of issues and challenges, to be accommodated or resolved, never simply resisted. The key to Apsey’s success is his character — his honest ability to see and respect other points of view, his deep, sympathetic understanding of foreign forest cultures, and his genuine belief in the international regulation of the global forest to meet both ecological criteria and the diversity of human needs.
If there is a flaw in Apsey’s memoir, it is that we do not get a realistic enough picture of the state of Canada’s forest industry: the annual net loss of forest biomass, the extent to which even sustainable forestry leads to loss of biodiversity, and the gap between what forest companies say and what they do. Apsey’s opposition to the B.C. NDP’s Forest Practices Code, with its plethora of highly specific, prescriptive rules, was less inappropriate than Apsey makes out. The code was supported by forest unions over the opposition of the timber companies, just as the labour movement opposed the cuts in public sector employment when Apsey was deputy minister.
Similarly with other national forests. Apsey spent much time in the coastal forests of Colombia, where he came to love the pristine ecosystem and the society of local, indigenous foresters. But without a whole cohort of Apsey’s and their social values, we are likely to see the development of forestry lead to the severe erosion of the ecosystem and the destruction of the indigenous culture.