British Columbia is about to lose 975 green collar jobs for the next eight weeks— and potentially longer. That’s because the only two industrial-scale Forest Stewardship Council sawmills in British Columbia—the same mills that sliced up the framing lumber for my Eco-Shed (see below)—are about to fall silent.
Tembec, the company in question, is shutting down its Elko and Canal Flats sawmills for two months as of early next week. When you factor in a third plant that will also spool down for the duration, 975 employees will be out of work.
The fact is, you don’t have to be a solar-panel installer to have a green-collar job. These mill workers were processing lumber from just about the only industrial forestlands in all of British Columbia that are truly managed sustainably. The vast majority of the rest are clear-cuts—the standard-issue take-no-prisoners logging strategy that has, over decades, devastated thousands of square miles of ecosystem in this province.
Here’s a snippet from Almost Green that explains why FSC lumber is so important:
In a nutshell, the FSC tree logo does for lumber what the Energy Star label does for appliances and windows—it lets you know you’ve made the greener choice. An FSC stamp guarantees that the wood adheres to a set of ten principles of forest stewardship, including a set of kinder, gentler harvesting practices. FSC-certified foresters work selectively—leaving tracts of trees intact—and pay close attention to issues such as erosion, wildlife habitat, streams, and lakes. The program was set up to protect biodiversity long before greenhouse gas emissions really hit the radar screen, but it certainly advances carbon-conservative practices along the way.
The shutdowns shouldn’t surprise anyone, really: As I note in my book, I only managed to get my hands on the ultra-rare Tembec eco-studs by pure fluke. (It pretty much fell off the back of a truck.) Tembec has shipped almost every stick of the dimensional lumber produced at Elko and Canal flats exclusively into the States—in railcar quantities, and likely to big-box home-improvement chains—and people just aren’t building much of anything down that way these days.
The company has failed spectacularly to market its responsibly harvested lumber here in B.C.—the place where Tembec’s sustainably managed forests grow, the place where the logs are cut up, and the place where the green-collar workers have been punching the clock and making it all work. As I document in the book, none of the local Home Depots and lumber yards I called had even heard of the stuff. Consumers can’t ask for FSC lumber if they don’t even know it’s an option.
Now, it isn’t just the company’s product that is heading south this week, it’s their business, too. A damn shame. Does anyone else see a lesson here?