the future forest industry

The Future Forest Industry

by Dan Lewis, Tofino


I traveled from Tofino, BC to Tokyo, Japan with Gisele and Joe Martin, members of the Tla-o-quiaht First Nations. We were representing the Friends of Clayoquot Sound.

Hundreds of companies and publishers across America and Europe have been developing procurement policies to avoid purchase of products from the world’s few remaining frontier forests. For example, the Canadian edition of Harry Potter was printed on Ancient Forest Friendly paper. The reason for this change is simple: many consumers are choosing to purchase products that are not part of the chain of destruction of these globally rare ecosystems. Let’s face it: business is causing most of our environmental problems, therefore business (and consumers) can choose to be part of the solution. While in Japan we had the good fortune to meet a businessman with a very progressive approach to these issues. His name is Tachi Kiuchi, co-author of the book What We Learned in the Rainforest. Kiuchi-san is the Chairman and ceo Emeritus of Mitsubishi Electric America.

Mitsubishi knows a thing or two about the movement to save the rainforests. They were targeted by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in the late eighties for their destruction of tropical rainforests. Kiuchi-san began receiving letters from schoolchildren about this issue. His company had nothing to do with the Mitsubishi that was destroying the forests, but he became personally interested and investigated.

The book describes his personal journey, and is a fascinating read. His conclusion is that we are shifting from an industrial economy where we used our muscles to extract resources from Nature, often leaving a mess in our wake, to an information economy, where we use our minds to extract the lessons of Nature. He feels that if we model our businesses on Nature, we can learn to survive. For example, there is no “garbage” in Nature. One organism’s waste is another organism’s sustenance. We inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide. Trees do the opposite!

I believe the economy of Tofino has already shifted from an industrial to an information economy, yet the forest industry is alive and well here. It may not be recognizable as such to those wearing the blinders of industrial forestry, but there is a vibrant economy, with many companies providing jobs for many more people, who make a living in and from the forest.

Tlaook Cultural Adventures is a prime example of this new version of the forest industry. Gisele Martin, owner and operator, was last summer awarded the Aboriginal Tourism bc Young Adult Achievement Award for her success in getting her company up and running.

Gisele’s father, Joe Martin, and her uncles Bill and Carl, are master canoe carvers. They take one ancient cedar from the forest, and produce a big canoe. This canoe is then used over and over to generate income. The breathtaking wildness of Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory, namely mountains blanketed in rainforest, is the draw, the reason people choose to paddle here. Gisele takes her guests on a “Wild Grocery Walk” in the ancient groves of Meares Island, sharing her incredible knowledge of the forest. And to top it off, there is a traditional Native salmon BBQ, also provided courtesy of the wild forests.

It was an honor to travel with Joe and Gisele in Japan, and to join them in their meetings with Japanese corporations. As members of the Wolf Clan, they share a responsibility to uphold the laws of their people, which is why Joe and Gisele chose to travel to Japan. Their message was so moving that, as one executive walked us to the elevator afterwards, he said to Gisele “Ganbatte kudasai!” which means, “Keep up the struggle!” For more information check out and Thanks to the Friends of Clayoquot Sound for organising the tour, and Patagonia USA and Japan for funding and hosting it.

Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck operate Rainforest Kayak Adventures in Clayoquot Sound 1-877-422-WILD

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Tofino seakayak expert Dan Lewis writes about his vision for the future forest industry and cites examples in Tofino that are already taking the path of ecologic responsibility.

tofino time december 2004

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