VICTORIA -- After years of lobbying abroad for a boycott of B.C. lumber, Greenpeace has finally struck pay dirt.
B & Q, one of Britain’s largest do-it-yourself furniture-maker chains has announced that it will boycott B.C. hemlock, the predominant species on the West Coast. O.K, so it took Greenpeace a few years, but putting people out of work is a job that can’t be done overnight.
In a letter to MacMillan Bloedel’s distributor in Europe, the company said it intends to stop buying hemlock from Mac Blo next year and switch to pine from Scandinavian forests.
The decision to find a substitute for hemlock was made because B & Q doesn’t believe that MacMillan Bloedel and other West Coast forest companies will achieve international standards for logging of hemlock by the end of 1999.
The Forest Stewardship Council, an international group of representatives from industry, government, environmentalists and others, set those standards in 1994 at a conference in Oaxaca, Mexico,
Regional councils were to adopt the standards that deal with issues such as environmental impact, tenure and use rights, indigenous peoples’ rights and rules for monitoring.
A few years ago, businesses in Britain informed Canadian companies that they would look elsewhere for wood products if the Canadian companies didn’t move towards those standards.
B & Q’s decision to stop buying hemlock isn’t going to be the end of British Columbia’s forest industry. The company buys its wood all over the world. MacMillan Bloedel’s market share is between $1 million and $2 million a year. But B $ Q’s move could prompt other companies to follow suit.
B & Q is a member of a buyers group that includes 79 other companies with annual sales in wood products worth about $7 billion. That’s considerable clout. And we owe it all to Greenpeace.
For years, Greenpeace has spread fear and loathing by using its massive international influence to portray British Columbia as the Brazil of the North. Its tactics have included every trick in the book.
The former Harcourt government established the Commission on Resources and Environment, which came up with detailed land-use plans. It brought in a tough Forest Practices Code, so tough, indeed, that rigid adherence to it would place the entire forest industry at risk.
Nothing was enough for Greenpeace. The organization continued to lobby against the province and its forest industry around the world, which earned it the name "enemies of British Columbia" from Premier Glen Clark.
Greenpeace said B & Q’s decision to stop buying hemlock from British Columbia was a wake-up call for government and industry. To me it’s more of a wake-up call for ordinary people to take another hard look at Greenpeace.
To engineer a boycott of our forest products thousands of miles away is no achievement. It’s a disgrace.
You can’t blame B & Q for pulling the plug. These people are in business to make money. And if the buying public in Britain is convinced, thanks to the efforts of Greenpeace, that we ravage our forests, B & Q won’t buy from us, no matter what the reality may be.
One final word to Greenpeace: if you want to find out how to be responsible and effective environmentalists, read "To Save the Wild Earth" by Rick Careless.
In the 25 years Rick has been active in the environmental movement, he’s done more to make British Columbia a better and more beautiful place than Greenpeace could ever hope to achieve.