BC VIEWS: Avatar sequel bombs in Walbran

Protest machine tries all its tricks to revive 'war in the woods' on B.C. coast, the most restricted logging area in the world

Masked protester interferes with logging operation in the Walbran Valley

Avatar, the future-fantasy blockbuster that beat Titanic as all-time Hollywood box office champ, has finally been unseated by the latest Star Wars space opera.

I watched Avatar on TV over the holidays for the first time since its 2009 release, and was able to see past the bombastic special effects to examine it for what it is, an anti-capitalist propaganda film.

Psychopathic military commander teams with evil mining executive to blast and slaughter their way to a chunk of rare mineral, ridiculously named “unobtainium.” Giant tree, home of highly evolved Na’vi people and their delicate jungle ecosystem, is toppled for sadistic fun and profit, before nature’s collective strikes back.

Canadian director James Cameron helped the global anti-development network use the movie in its celebrity attack on the Alberta oil industry. Now the story line is being employed again in B.C., in an effort to revive the 1990s “war in the woods” that led to the creation of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on Vancouver Island.

Protest tactics are being refined. Targeting just outside the boundary of the vast park established 20 years ago, giant trees are named and an Avatar-style narrative of unbridled greed is spoon-fed to urban media.

There’s a “Tolkien Giant” now, although I’m reliably informed it is not one of those trees that gets up and walks around in the Lord of the Rings movies. This tree is also protected from logging, as are most of the poster trees used for propaganda and fundraising.

The network uses multiple front groups. Vancouver-based Wilderness Committee stages urban protests and issues news releases, while Ecojustice lawyers fight forest company injunctions against direct actions that disrupt legal logging. An employee of the B.C. branch plant of Sierra Club lurks, apparently coordinating media and protesters.

A 1990s remnant called Friends of Carmanah-Walbran issued a statement Nov. 9 announcing “autonomous action” by three protesters to disrupt logging. Not their guys, you understand, just masked individuals willing to lock themselves to equipment or wander into a road-building blast zone, forcing work to stop for safety reasons.

These are among the actions that forced the logging company to go to court for an injunction.

Cast in the role of evil corporation is Teal-Jones Group, a B.C. forest company trying to operate in what is now the most environmentally restricted forest in the world. It keeps about 2,000 people employed in logging and its sawmills in Surrey, where investments have been made to handle second-growth coastal timber as well as what little old-growth they are allowed to harvest.

Protesters have dubbed their latest target, the tiny 3.2 hectare cutblock 4424, “Black Diamond Grove” for media and fundraising purposes.

Teal-Jones forester Chris Harvey provided me some information to counter protester claims. Block 4424 isn’t being logged, although it was permitted last fall. Protesters are targeting other operations, none of which are in the contentious Walbran “bite” area next to the park.

Teal-Jones has not only received permits and worked with environmental organizations, its operations are independently certified by the Canadian Standards Association.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge granted an extension of the injunction protecting Teal-Jones’ operations on Jan. 4. The judge wasn’t swayed by protesters packing the Victoria courtroom, and upheld a 50-metre safety zone around working equipment in the Walbran Valley until the end of March.

A Wilderness Committee spokesman with no evident forestry qualifications was appalled. He will no doubt continue to issue news releases and write his own version for left-wing fringe publications that seek to perpetuate an urban culture of revulsion for logging.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc


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