Book Review: Big Trees Not Big Stumps

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Big Trees Not Big Stumps: 25 years of campaigning to save wilderness with the Wilderness Committee, by Paul George.

ImageThis is a really thick book. That's why this review wasn't written until several months after its publication; it took me two months to read it. Even so, to bring it down to 463 pages, a lot of text had to be snipped from earlier drafts.

The book is officially described as a history of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, of which the author, Paul George, was a co-founder. If you have lived in British Columbia for a long time, reading this book will bring back a lot of events that you had forgotten about. Paul's documentation of the long fight over Clayoquot Sound and the industry and government-sanctioned violence in the Elaho Valley (remember Premier Glen Clark referring to environmentalists as β€œenemies of B.C.”?) is especially useful. In reading all this history, you can't help but notice a general change in the public attitude about wilderness preservation and other issues, such as preservation of wildlife habitat, that go with it. When Paul, Adriane Carr. Elizabeth May, the late Colleen McCrory, and Thom Henley were working to preserve South Moresby (it wasn't commonly referred to as Haida Gwaii at the time) the idea of creating a park for purposes other than providing places for parking RV's and camping trailers, and doing some hiking, was a new one. Over several years, the South Moresby proponents had to sell several relatively new ideas. For recreational values, South Moresby would become a paradise for kayakers, but there was also the preservation of unique marine, plant, and animal life, and preservation of an important part of Haida culture. The Wilderness Committee also had to sell the idea trees have values other than producing two-by-fours.

The book is about a lot more than history, however. It could serve as a training manual for community activism. Scattered throughout the book are words of useful advice, in boldface. for example, β€œEducational materials are most effective when they are focused on one campaign issue, not a bunch of them 'cobbled' together.” There are abundant examples of campaign efforts that worked, as well as ones that didn't, and reasons why are provided.

It's also about people. Ken Wu, Andrea Reimer, and Adriane Carr get a lot of mileage, as does Joe Foy, Ken Lay, and the late Randy Stoltmann.

There are also things in this book that will make you laugh. Some of them come at the expense of Premier Bill Vander Zalm; Adriane Carr had to explain to him what a "watershed" is. The book also has a lot of pictures, and it comes with a DVD.

Taken as a whole, this book tells about recent British Columbia history from a unique perspective. Buy a copy for the environmentalist on your Christmas list.

Big Trees Not Big Stumps is available from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee; $39.95 CAD.