I’m going to do some catching up here with a series of posts about the main Forest Protector actions I have been involved in here in Kespukwitk, District One of the seven traditional districts of Mi’kma’ki, otherwise known as southwest Nova Scotia, since 2020.
Combining a longstanding writing practice with trying to save the humans (and the rest of nature) isn’t easy. But the UN’s IPCC report in 2018 woke me up. It said we had twelve years to act if we want a livable planet. Twelve years. Not decades. Okay, but what was going to get us moving? Us, collectively. Individuals being virtuous was not going to do it. Along came Extinction Rebellion, birthed in the UK by people feeling the same necessity for collective action. I first encountered them as a Facebook image of a group of people blocking a logging road in Southwest Nova Scotia. They were carrying a long green banner bearing the words, Extinction Rebellion. They were out there, getting in the way of a clearcut. My people. I felt a surge of relief.
When I searched Extinction Rebellion I discovered videos of visually powerful, peaceful mass civil disobedience in London, England. They had taken over a bridge across the River Thames and turned it into a garden bridge with potted trees and house plants. They had anchored a pink boat in Oxford Circus and set up a dance stage. The boat was named after a murdered Central American environmental activist. Their demands of government were simple. Tell the Truth. Act Now. Citizen participation. The disruption they were causing was a mere shadow of what was coming our way if we didn’t start treating the climate crisis like the emergency it is.
Not long afterwards, a poster appeared in my local small town library. Someone was going to screen Extinction Rebellion’s Talk. Twenty-five people crowded into the meeting room to hear the bad news – we were screwed if we didn’t start slashing emissions right away, in fact we were somewhat screwed even if we did — and the good news: people like us were waking up all around the world and if we were brave and bold we might make a difference. That was in February 2019.
We formed a local chapter and learned there was already a Nova Scotia wide group. We hired a bus and marched in Halifax. We got our very own pink boat, a canoe, this being Canada, and pretty soon we and our canoe were camped on a logging road to protect an old forest on a peninsula between two lakes. After five days and a serious foot-in-mouth moment on live radio by the head of the sawmill consortium licensed to cut the forest, we won. The harvest was put on hold. That forest is still standing. It doesn’t have formal protection yet but we continue to monitor it.
We printed up flyers and dressed up in bee costumes for the Apple Blossom Festival and again for the Natal Day parade. We sailed the pink canoe on Clean Annapolis River Day. In September we joined 10,000 people on the streets of Halifax, marching for climate action, led by the School Students for Climate Strike and Fridays For Future.
In early March 2020 Extinction Rebellion, by then generally known as XR, pulled together a meeting of all the chapters in the province to hash out priorities for the year ahead and to build relationships with other groups. Three days later the World Health Organization declared COVID a global pandemic.
Collective actions ground to a halt. So did my money work. But my second novel, Cardinal Divide, was still on track to come out in September. Also the logging industry kept logging. And they kept on spraying herbicides from helicopters to kill off the natural regeneration that followed their clearcuts. As it turned out, they planned to spray in the county where I live, in September of course. DON’T SPRAY US we painted on tents and tarps. But I had outdoor book signing events lined up. There was no way I could go and camp on a clearcut to stop the spray.
That decision didn’t last long. Something in me had made a serious commitment to getting in the way of what damaged the Earth. But did it have to be either/or? It turned out to be fun, doing clearcut book signings, even if we were always listening out for a helicopter. In the end the spray plans were cancelled for all the sites where people camped. Frogs and snakes that would have been killed on contact by the glyphosate-based spray got to live. Birds and bears and deer ate uncontaminated browse and berries. The Earth continued to heal herself from the brutal assault that is clearcutting.
My book showed no signs of becoming a bestseller but I felt proud of it and got lovely feedback from people who read it. I was looking forward to my winter writing time. But that wasn’t quite how it worked out.