Creating a New Relationship with our Forests NOW
This summer I co-led the KAIROS Rolling Justice Bus ‘Forests Forever’ tour. The tour was about Connecting the Dots, about how everything in a watershed is connected. What we do to one part of a watershed we do to everyone and every living thing in that watershed.
I live on Scia’new territory of the Lekwungen speaking people in Metchosin.
I want to acknowledge that I am here now on the traditional and present-day territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations of the West Coast Saalish. I understand that my ancestors and now myself are part of the colonial systems of racism and disconnected relations with each other and with the land and water that sustain us all.
KAIROS the organization that I am part of is a faith based organization that is about Indigenous rights, ecological justice and human rights. I see myself as a Christian who tries my best to walk in a good way – I am learning all the time about what this means to walk and be in good relation with others and the earth.
On the Forests Forever bus tour, I learned and saw so much about how we do and don’t care for our forests. I learned about the language used to talk about forests: as natural resources, cut blocks, board feet, fiber, rotations and tree farm licenses.
These are all words that underlay how we in the past couple of centuries have arrived at seeing trees and these beautifully integrated ecosystems as nothing other than something to be cut down for monetary gain.
I learned that protected areas aren’t really protected. That we are cutting down old growth at a faster rate than ever before. That when a 500-year-old tree is cut down, we lose not only the tree but the biodiversity and ecosystems it has supported.
White settler folks started down the wrong path over 2,000 years ago and separated all that is sacred including trees and forests into something that ‘we told ourselves’ that we had dominion over.
Indigenous people though have always known this to be a false, extremely dysfunctional story and it is only recently that some Christians have begun to understand relationship with the earth in a different, older and deeper way. We have come to appreciate our planet as our home, and a living system whose health depends on the health of its organs and tissues – its wetlands, forests, seagrass, mangroves, fish, corals, and more.
I know now – and many of us white settlers now know – that our remaining old growth forests and the ecosystems that they are part of are SACRED. They are part of all that is holy on this earth and our collective abuse of them must stop.
We are all now in an extremely fragile moment in this world where we have been told by scientists that we have little more than a decade to change everything we are doing. As many have said – we are at a tipping point. Everything we do or don’t do right now will affect us and our children – yours and mine. We do not have time to continue with business as usual in any part of our lives including continuing to cut our old growth forests.
As Greta Thunberg just said in her Sept 23rd speech to the United Nations, “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction of species and all we can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth”.
We must create a new relationship with our forests – one of respect and value for the ecosystems that they support.
Everything is connected – we humans are not separate from the web of life that sustains us.
We must see this interconnection if we are to do all that is necessary immediately to change the direction in which we are headed.
All our relations!
Janet Gray, active leader with KAIROS Victoria and former KAIROS B.C./Yukon rep.