I am at a meeting at the local library. My 11 year old and I are surrounded by people just like us; people who want to protect our earth from those who are not using regenerative practices. We have come to learn about legacy forests. We all want to know what can be done to stop the logging of 5 precious lots that are set to be destroyed next month. We feel powerless against the loggers. ‘What legal loophole can we use to fight the destruction of our forest?’
During the meeting, I learned that a Legacy Forest is a forest that contains trees that are at least 80 years old. I learned that when you cut down a forest the carbon in the soil continues to release for the next 12 years! It’s clear that preserving the trees in their natural form is best. Indigenous people have always understood that biodiversity is crucial to our survival. They understand the difference between dirt and soil. They have always know there is a soil food web; the circle of life.
The colonizer mindset sees natural resources only as economic resources. We have to stop doing that if our human race is going to survive.
I learned that when a legacy forest gets ripped apart, the machines they use destroy the soil forever. And when they go to replant that forest it becomes a mono-crop called, a “plantation forest”. Then it goes into the portfolio of those who reap the economic benefits. It’s not a legacy forest anymore. It’s stripped down to nothing. Plantation forests don’t have aggregated soil for holding water. That means harvesting these trees will surely affect our watershed. When our watershed is destroyed then we don’t have a water supply anymore. And the river by my house, where we get our water from, is also at risk of being destroyed. One of these lots is really steep, when the trees come down, so can the mountain, into our river. Water is why we moved here. It’s why we chose this place above others.
During the presentation there is a slide that reads: “I’ve heard a lot about the Amazon, but not about our forests. The giant conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest store more carbon per acre than any other forests in the world, and almost twice as much as tropical rainforests.”
When I wrote to my county commissioners in protest, most of them responded with: ‘The money from harvesting the legacy forest goes to your kids’ school. Our hands our tied.’ It’s hard to know what to say to that. Then the environmental lawyer at the presentation says, “Having to choose between water or education is something we need to reject outright. That’s not the issue. We are asking for a pause on logging these particular lots. We need to slow down and think this through. The money from the lots would go into a capital campaign. It will sit there for years; this is not an emergency.”
And that’s when it happens. That’s the moment when I realize that not all the people in this room tonight are like us. The people in the back row are loggers and they have come to interrupt the presentation. They have come to tell us we are all tree huggers and that we don’t understand what they do.
“Do you like those hills?” They ask. Aren’t they pretty? Well, I logged those hills for you.”
I am speechless. I don’t know what to say. The hills that are stripped of trees do not look nice to me. They look naked and fucked up. Go ten miles west of my house and you will see total destruction. No trees for hours and hours of our drive. Have you ever hiked in a bulldozed forest? It’s hot as hell! The temperature got so hot in the state where I relocated from because of how much tree canopy we have lost in the previous two years. We are almost out of time.
“Do you like this building that you are sitting in?” The loggers continue, “Well this was cleared for you. If you don’t have logging you don’t get this library.”
The man next to me is enraged. He yells back at them, “Well do you have to log EVERYTHING? What the fuck is wrong with you? You wanna interrupt this? I can interrupt you right back!”
The tension in this room is climbing. The presenters have to calm everyone down. I feel protective of my child as the meeting feels like it might turn physical. One woman pulls at her husband’s jacket begging him to calm down as a man across the room baits him.
I wonder if these loggers are paid to come here by the logging companies to sing a swan song? Or are they just here because they feel genuinely angry? Is it because they feel they have been mistreated and get a bad wrap? Is this why they feel compelled to speak up? Or are they the ones who will be logging these lots and they are afraid they will lose their contract with the county?
I have no idea, but what I am clear on, is how we need a community circle. I believe so strongly in the healing power of circle that I wrote a book about it. I also trained with the Restorative Center in Newburgh NY, a grassroots model of restorative justice. Circles provide a container for exactly this issue; opposing beliefs in a community.
The loggers want to be heard. They want to tell their story. One of them is tearing up as he expresses his pain about how badly he has been treated. But I just want them to shut up so we can continue to learn from the presenters on how to stop the harvesting of this legacy forest. I am angry. These lots are just a couple miles from my home and it will affect my drinking water. And they are distracting me from the task at hand.
The shadow of this community is heavy and painful. It has two sides that feel misunderstood and the torment is strong. It’s moving through the room from person to person.
I think about how I would run a circle for these two groups. I think, ‘this is an extra large circle’, meaning; the topic is very big and intense. I think I would open the circle with “A Hopi Elder Speaks”.
I think about the phases of a circle: The open and the close and the four phases in between. I don’t know what the first circle prompt would be. But the second prompt would be, “tell a story about a tree.” Or would that be too direct? Should it be, “tell a story about nature”, instead?
The magic of circle is that it can get people to find common ground. It’s inviting them to see nature as the great teacher and to leave their bravado and self importance out of the circle. It can result in shared power and collective wisdom.
The third circle prompt would definitely be, “what breaks your heart?” Because this community has a broken heart. And the trees get forgotten in all the human disagreements.
The lawyer says to the loggers, “we aren’t against logging. But we want it to be intentional. Your reports say it’s fine to log these lots but our reports contest that. Can we find some common ground?” Then one of the loggers accuses the speakers of using the term “legacy forest” falsely since one of the lots isn’t technically an acre of 80 plus year old trees.
‘Yep, we definitely need a circle.’ I think.
I think to myself about how the only way through is to give all of us an opportunity to share stories and allow the healing to take place. But also to never stop protecting our trees. What breaks your heart? At the moment, this is what’s breaking mine… -Liliana Barzola