Green Gold: The Forest Industry in British Columbia

Green Gold: The Forest Industry in British Columbia

Green Gold: The Forest Industry in British Columbia

Green Gold: The Forest Industry in British Columbia

Synopsis

A comprehensive analysis of the social, political, and economic role of forests as one of the principal single-staple industries in British Columbia, this book explores the history of forestry in the province, legislation and governmental control, labour unions, community and industry structure, employment conditions for men and women, job security, and "boom or bust" ideologies.

Excerpt

Green gold is the lush softwood forest that dominates the rugged coastline and blankets the flat interior of British Columbia. For a century and more, the people who have made these fjords and valleys their home have enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world. But they have enjoyed this at a great cost: the depletion of the forest base, the dependence on an American neighbour’s markets, and the locking-in of a specialized role as producers of raw materials for industries located elsewhere. Suddenly in the 1980’s the green gold could not be sold. the American construction industry stopped building vast numbers of new wooden houses as interest rates increased, and newspapers stopped publishing giant-sized packages as the consumer markets declined. These were effects of a depression, but beneath these temporary crises were long-term problems: new construction materials for housing, electronic media for news and advertising, new mills in the southern United States, and a world overcapacity for production of pulp and newsprint combined, paradoxically, with a diminishing resource base.

The argument in Parts I and iii of this book is that a stable and selfsufficient economy cannot be created by exporting natural resources and importing finished products. This practice leads to a weak domestic economy, extreme vulnerability to fluctuations in world demand for single products, and unstable resource communities. the costs to British Columbia are now being experienced, but to date the provincial government has obstinately ignored the problems. in 1981–82, the government allowed nearly twice as many hectares of forest land to be cut as were replanted, and permanent closures of mills left several communities without an economic base.

The central section of the book examines a series of related theories about labour and presents sample survey and other data pertaining to the resource labour force in forestry-dependent communities. the arguments developed in Part ii are that the structure of the industry creates a transient labour force; that very little about the resource work-force can be explained in terms of personal characteristics, but much in terms of class and regional origins; and that employment alternatives for forestry workers when they are laid off are rapidly disappearing. There are important differences in working conditions for loggers, sawmill, and pulpmill workers. These are described, and it is argued that differences in job durations are related to cost efficiencies of . . .

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