You might remember from my conversation with podcast guest Tony Hiss a passage from his book, Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth, that inspired me for the bold story it told.
I’m finally copying that passage here. I’ll put in bold the bold part that psyched me up, to ask for what we fucking need:
Back in 1997, [Steve] Kallick was with the Pew Charitable Trusts, in Philadelphia, beneficiary of much of the fortune of Joseph N. Pew, founder of the Sun Oil Company, when he and his colleagues began thinking about the Boreal. They were also working on the roadless rule, in what Kallick’s boss at the time, Joshua Reichert, who has a Princeton doctorate in social anthropology, called “a results-oriented way.” In three years, the roadless-area campaign permanently protected 58.5 million acres of wilderness in U.S. national forests, bu pulling what Kallick calls “an aikido move”: the Forest Service had been asking the public how to manage its existing network of roads, and the campaign turned that around into a referendum on whether there should be any more roads in the remote backwoods at all. This generated 2 million “no more roads” public comments, along with six hundred anti-road editorials and thousands of newspaper articles.
One of the things Kallick likes about working in Canada is that it, like Australia and the United States, has money, land that’s still protectable, a history of conservation, and operates as a rule-of-law country, meaning that decisions are likely to stick and not get arbitrarily overturned. These are all circumstances that, he said, make it easier to keep thinking positively by putting some wins on the board. One question, early on, was how much of the Boreal to protect—this at a time when 12 percent seemed daring. Kallick remembers an informal meeting at a ski lodge in Sutton, Quebec, in which Harvey Locke set off clouds of chalk dust by thumping on a blackboard (it was that long ago), imploring him to “ask for what we fucking need”—at least 50 percent. “You know what?” Kallick said. “He’s right. Let’s be bold!”
The Canadian Boreal Conservation Framework, announced in 2003, seemed wild-eyed at first, even to environmentalists—“So far outside the mainstream,” Steve Kallick remembers. But some big timber companies said it sounded reasonable, and First Nations groups signed on too, even though to them the idea sounded skimpy. The proposal called for protection of 50 percent of the Boreal in connected reserves and allowed for development in the other 50 percent—but only by loggers, miners, and hydro-dam builders who respected the ecosystems.
Less than a decade later, the framework’s fifty-fifty split seemed practically conventional: after surfacing as a last-minute, hot button issue in a 2010 Ontario election (Ontario is the most populous province), the government there passed a Far north Act to protect half of the top of the province, about 55 million acres of the Boreal, and a year later neighboring Quebec (Quebec is the largest province) adopted a Plan Nord to make nearly 150 millions acres—half of its own north–off-limits to development.
We should do more bold sustainability leadership!
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