Tropical rainforests have been getting a lot of much-needed attention, but the "Decade of the Rainforest Conference," held in Seattle last November, underscored the similarities between tropical rainforests and the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest Bioregion.
Many of the same destructive forces are at work in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia or Alaska’s Tongass National Forest as in the Amazon Basin: specifically, voracious consumption of irreplaceable forest to satisfy the developed world’s appetite for "cheap" wood products, as well as ignorance about what is lost in the process.
The conference’s whole-systems approach revealed connections between all aspects of our culture (not just economics) and forest destruction. The workshops and presentations emphasized actions and lifestyle choices that make a positive impact, from recycling to civil disobedience to running for local political office.
Sponsored by Chinook Learning Center and Elmwood Institute, the weekend was filled with factual reports, impassioned speeches, brainstorming sessions, music and storytelling. Feelings ran high for the over 600 participants who learned about the endangered status of forests and began planning effective action to halt their destruction. It became very clear that groups must put aside differences, clarify objectives, set goals, and act together now in time to have an effect.
At two follow-up strategy meetings, a core group of planners with affiliations as diverse as Earth First! and the Washington State Department of Ecology worked to find common ground. They made preliminary plans for mobilizing global action in the coming decade. Several goals include:
- Gathering 16 million signatures in a worldwide petition drive calling for a halt to the cutting of all temperate and tropical rainforest and old-growth trees.
- Dedicating several dates in 1989 for local and global public action and/or educational events, possibly coinciding with "Earth Week" and John Muir’s birthday (in April), the "Environmental Sabbath" declared by the United Nations (June 3-4), and "World Rainforest Week" (October 22-29).
- Organizing huge marches on Washington, D.C. and other capitals in 1990 to demonstrate public outrage against the cutting of old-growth timber and rainforests.
- Creating a centralized information, communication, and networking center to support groups and individuals working on rainforest issues.
Time during the conference was also devoted to expressing joy and appreciation for the beauty of the forests, which helped to offset the potential for despair and to aid the empowerment of all those working to effect positive change.
For more information contact: Chinook Learning Center, PO Box 57, Clinton, WA 98236, (206) 321-1884; Elmwood Institute, PO Box 5805, Berkeley, CA 94705, (415) 845-4595; Rainforest Action Network, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133, (415) 398-4404; or the Institute for Gaian Economics, 64 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Montpelier, VT 05602, (802) 223-7943.