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