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We must protect planet for future generations

Lynne Wheeler, Comox Valley Record, December 28, 2011

Dear editor,

I remember squaring off against 'the environmentalists' back in the '90s when a person didn't want to admit that they worked in the forest industry.

Today, I am an activist working hard to preserve a future for my grandson and future generations.

It was so easy when I was defending my job in the forest industry to demonize the people fighting clearcuts and the damage caused by logging. We summarily dismissed them as unemployed, welfare bums, and hippies. Clayoquot at the time had the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.

Now that I am fighting the proposed Raven coal mine, which is planned right beside Baynes Sound and uphill from my community, I have to ask myself, "Am I just being a NIMBY?"

I have to say no because the thing about activism is that you start to pay attention to all kinds of other things going on in the world. What I have learned is that there are over a million groups fighting for the environment all over the world.

That is a sad statement about where we are today in terms of protecting this planet for future generations. Today, I look back to the Clayoquot protests with respect and admiration.

From what I can see, there are three distinct camps, the left-leaning environmentalists and social justice advocates, the right-wing industry/economy supporters, and the fence-sitters.

The left-wing camp wants to have real democracy where government is not controlled by corporations, regulations that protect the environment, and global social justice.

The right-wing camp is in full support of industry and the jobs it creates, which trump the environment, or they believe that there are currently sufficient regulations in place. In their world, nature is to be conquered, and profit is a driving force.

The fence-sitters are trying to raise families, pay their bills, and get through their busy lives. They know that both sides have some valid points, but they are too busy or don't really care one way or the other.

And so the battle rages on, left against right, with no progress being made because we cannot find our common ground.

I would be naive to think we could suddenly live without any coal being mined at all, because I do drive a car and my home, like everyone else's, is full of products made of steel.

When I worked in the forest industry and people criticized us for logging, I responded with, "Don't you live in a wooden house, and read newspapers? And what do you wipe your butt with?"

I have come to realize that we need to do a better job with forestry. We should be protecting watersheds, and avoiding large clearcuts. We should protect biodiveristy. I believe many people working in the forest industry feel the same way.

Which brings me to the proposed Raven Mine. The Comox Valley is just about the worst place I can think of for a coal mine. It would be akin to clearcutting Stanley Park.

It appears that what a community envisions for itself is not an important factor in the government's decision. We say it should be.

Our vision for the Comox Valley is a place of wondrous natural beauty, with good sustainable jobs, and a healthy place to live with a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

Lynne Wheeler,
Fanny Bay