The Amazon got a lot of attention in 2019. People everywhere reacted in horror as it watched a wild paradise be attacked by fire, clearcutting and a never-ending demand for things like palm oil and fast food.
Even if we’ve never experienced a hike in the lush Amazon, it holds a special place in our hearts. It’s like the polar bear; we just need to know it’s there and doing ok. We admire it as a remarkable and exotic place, unlike any other - but in fact, it is not the only special and remarkable place in need of our concern.
In a few small pockets around the Maritimes, there is a forest unlike any other and it also can be considered exotic - not because it is far away, but because it has become so rare and hard to find. The natural homeland of the Acadian Forest covers all of the Maritimes and parts of Quebec and the northern New England states. Jamie Simpson, a forester, lawyer and author wrote a book called Restoring the Acadian Forest and he explains that the Acadian Forest truly is special.
“It is an area of transition between two larger forest ecosystems, the Northern Hardwood Forest to the south and the Boreal Forest to the north. As such, the Acadian Forest combines elements from each of these forests, creating a blend of softwood and hardwood trees (32 species in all) found nowhere else. In its natural state, the Acadian Forest is one of the most richly diverse temperate forests in the world.” (Simpson, 2008).
Unfortunately, only about 1% of old growth Acadian Forest remains (the World Wildlife Fund lists it as critical/endangered). It is a forest assaulted by clearcutting, development
and our never-ending demand for disposable paper products.
When the world became aware that forest fires were claiming large swaths of the amazing Amazon, individuals, organizations and nations leapt forward with offers of financial aid, but instead of showing gratitude, the government of Brazil said, “Not so fast!” Brazil claimed the offers were tainted with hypocrisy and were a thinly disguised attack on Brazil’s economy. The chief of staff for the president of Brazil suggested that France, one of the nations to come forward with money, concentrate instead its efforts on reforesting its own country.
There are some hard truths here about people in glass houses and the stones they throw. The industrialized countries cleared their forests long ago to make way for agriculture, infrastructure and industry. Today these countries enjoy the economic fruits of those efforts, but they no longer have the forests they had when say the Notre Dame was built (and this is why France must look elsewhere for timber to repair the fire damage to the cathedral).
The Acadian Forest is just one of the many forests of the world that was sacrificed in the name of development and economics. And it is still under attack.
Defending the Amazon is important, but we should also consider what we do at home. We should spend more time appreciating the incredible diversity and beauty contained in the remaining stands of our old growth forests and we should perhaps take Brazil’s advice, and allow some of our land to return to a wild state.
Check out our Facebook page (Robin Hoodies) to see photos from recent hikes in a pocket of wilderness in Southwest Nova Scotia.