A video about the Women at Clayoquot
Clearcut was just a word to me until I viewed this film and saw the vast expanse of ravaged lifeless mountainsides on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Earth in pain. The contrast between the high arches of the 15,000-year-old rainforest, Canada's cathedrals, and the stumps and sticks of multinational chainsaw-raped public land makes a statement no words can express.
The women who tried to block the logging road into the forest of Clayoquot Sound, in July 1993 are the heroes of our time and the video is their story. Filmmaker Shelley Wine conceived of the film while incarcerated in Ucluelet, BC. There were 856 people, two-thirds of them women, charged with disturbing the peace and aiding and abetting others. The names of these women should be in a Hall of Fame for trying to save our temperate old-growth rainforest.The Chipco Movement
The first woman in the video is Vandana Shiva, eco-feminist writer. She and the women in India are shown hugging the endangered trees in the Himalayas in India. She claims such a movement as Chipko (meaning "embrace") has no beginning and no end because it is spontaneous, requiring no notice, no funding, no control - a good introduction to the Clayoquot phenomenon.
The video is essential viewing for several reasons. Seeing the forced removal of hundreds of people, young and old, by the police carrying some to waiting vans and buses brings home the shameful official response to protest in Canada today.
Through archival footage the film excels at making the links between women's suffrage and anti-nuclear and anti-war protests of the past.
It also links all ages: a young boy is carried by police; the octogenarian grandmother waves to cheering supporters as she enters the police bus.
We can honor all those who dare to speak out, especially Valerie Langer and Tzeporah Berman whose comments give the video its expert content while keeping the speeches short and compelling.
We see Diana Wilson as she climbs 70 feet up to spend most of a week on a platform high in a magnificent tree. She does not hesitate to risk her life but is shocked that the police would do so in trying to get her down.
The music adds to the whole effect. It is the sound of chanting such as "We and the Earth are One" that keeps the spirit rising in the protesters and the viewers. The Raging Grannies chime in with "Oh where, oh where has democracy gone?"
Some police intimated that their orders came from above, in this case from MacMillan Bloedel, who demanded the arrest of the ringleaders. The company allegedly got its information and photos from the police.
Was it legal to arrest people who were at the side of the road and were not blocking anything? Jane Savile describes the most alarming legal aspect of the case as the changing of the charges from civil contempt to criminal contempt retroactively to cover the arrests. And the extended incarceration up to six months is unprecedented for civil disobedience in Canada.
I particularly liked 82-year-old Irene Abbey who described her motivation for going to the protest. "We're all responsible. We must work to earn our pension and for the future of our young people." Of course First Nations people were there too. It is partly their land. Mary Hayes points out that the more natives give up, the more the state wants.
Whose land is it? Does "public" mean anything? Are the police and politicians public servants or lackeys of multinationals?
The irony is that the financing for the film came partly from the Canada Council, much to the disgust of one M.P. who describes the protest as the "destruction of the tax-payers' lifestyle."What was the Outcome?
Did the largest civil protest of 856 people in Canada's history succeed? Not yet. For Clayoquot 74 percent of the area is still available for logging although logging has been suspended for now. A Forest Practices Code has been established but not yet put into action. There is now a First Natons-controlled logging enterprise in Clayoquot. This is backed by some, but not all of the '93-'94 protest groups. "Selective logging" means taking out individual trees rather than clearcutting. It is expensive, but is considered a good forest management practice.
Of course it's not just about trees; it's about power, it's about human and environmental rights, it's about personal freedom to act collectively. To join the movement contact Project Mother Earth, 1956 East Third Ave., Vancouver, BC V5N 1H5, 604-255-9363 or email <shellw @telus.net>.
Reviewed by Shirley Farlinger