A New Clayoquot Summer?

The battle to protect Clayoquot Sound, the old growth rain forest on Vancouver Island, was one of the defining campaigns of the Canadian environmental movement during the early 1990s. Thousands participated in protests to halt clearcut logging in the area, all the while launching a new generation of environmental leadership within this country. (One of these figures was Tzeporah Berman, whose memoirs are discussed elsewhere on this site.) After environmentalists won major concessions to protect the area, Clayoquot Sound more or less faded from the public consciousness.

A recent story in the Globe and Mail reveals renewed concern for the area's ecological integrity. Continued logging, fish farming, and the threat of mining on Catface Mountain have led Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck, veterans of the earlier protests, to form Clayoquot Action. Described on their website as "a frontline conservation organization committed to peacefully protecting the biocultural diversity of Clayoquot Sound," they aim to take on Imperial Metals, which has acquired mineral rights to the area.

Lewis and Glambeck suggest that they have no plans to orchestrate the massive protests that characterize the earlier campaign. As Berman's book demonstrates, the activists learned a great deal about working behind the scenes during the nineties. Protests are great at showing that people care, she notes, but without carefully defined objectives such activities can result in little progress. Likewise, Berman also notes the importance of forging alliances and finding common ground with other interests in order to make gains. In short, a cause such as this requires not just passion and idealism, but also a healthy dose of pragmatism.

Clayoquot Sound is an irreplaceable environmental treasure. It will be interesting to see how much Lewis and Glambeck's work will be informed by the earlier campaign.