Liabilities of a rapacious industry

Although climate change is a reality, our reliance on it to shrug off certain environmental changes is often overdone.

To the editor;

After the horrors of this past summer, it would make sense to examine the situation surrounding forest fires to see what action might reduce the chances of similar happenings in the future. Although climate change is a reality, our reliance on it to shrug off certain environmental changes is often overdone. After all, the call of “climate change” is often used as a handy excuse for some conditions, like forest fires, which could absolve us from taking action because the issue of climate change is so large and our efforts seemingly insignificant. We then wallow in helplessness while the causes of our predicament go unchecked.

Business as usual rules when we lack a focus for concerted public action — and this suits the corporate world just fine. Giant forest fires may not be inevitable, but they will become more frequent if nothing is done to correct some of the causative factors that enter the background mix.

Trees are far more than the feedstock for a rapacious industry or inconvenient obstacles for property developers. One crucial attribute of forests that escapes public discussion is the fact trees deliver large quantities of water vapour to the atmosphere. Their contribution is not trivial; under some conditions, a single, mature tree will every day take thousands of litres of water, vapourize it and place it into the atmosphere. Trees are said to provide more than 10 per cent of all the water vapour in Earth’s atmosphere, but this number masks their true importance because trees only grow on land and the global land mass is only 25 per cent of the Earth’s surface.

If we exclude deserts and permafrost, the critical importance of the world’s great forests, like B.C.’s temperate rain forest, become far more important. It is true several factors must coincide to create the drought conditions leading to fires, but the water vapour delivered by forests certainly has a role in what may be described as the tipping point — rain versus no rain.

Every block stripped by a feller buncher not only renders homeless some unfortunate species, like the endangered mountain caribou of Wells Gray, but it deprives the rest of the landscape a continuing supply of water vapour. Burning thousands of square kilometers of forest, as happened this past summer, could push the situation past some imaginary point of no return because burned land does not deliver water vapour.

Given the example set by previous fires, natural tree regeneration happens slowly and the recovery of cut, or burned forest, to the point where it once again contributes significant quantities of water vapour takes nearly a lifetime. Add clearcut after clearcut to burned forest after burned forest and atmospheric water vapour depletion can reach critical proportions. Ecologists maintain corporate profits often result from incomplete accounting practices; that the environmental “jobs” done by nature to maintain itself simply do not get done once indiscriminate industrial activity makes its mark on the landscape.

These costs go uncounted and nature’s crucial tasks no longer get done. It’s all a bit subtle for the world of corporate accounting, but what if the human-borne losses resulting from drought and fire were able to be claimed, for example, through class-action lawsuits? Could this deliver some of the profound changes so badly needed?

David Simms

Clearwater, B.C.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Haida hereditary chief named Liberal Candidate for North Coast Region

Roy Jones Jr. is named Liberal MLA candidate for the North Coast

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Most Read