Trees and Us

Our new podcast series asks: what does the forest mean to you? First up, Severn Cullis-Suzuki.

By Mark Leiren-Young 17 Aug 2007 |

Mark Leiren-Young is the writer and director of The Green Chain, a movie about people who love trees and are willing to do anything to protect their vision of the forests. To subscribe to The Green Chain blog, click here or join us at MySpace and Facebook. The Green Chain stars Babz Chula, Jillian Fargey, Brendan Fletcher, Tricia Helfer, Scott McNeil, Tahmoh Penikett and August Schellenberg. Mark's also a regular contributor to The Tyee. For more on Mark, visit his website

Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been speaking out on social justice and environmental issues since she was small. She founded the Environmental Children's Organization at age nine and attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and several UN summits since. She is a commissioner for the Earth Charter and spearheaded the "Recognition of Responsibility," taking it to the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 and on tour in Japan. She has a B.Sc. in biology from Yale and is currently studying ethnoecology at the University of Victoria with traditional Kwakwaka'wakw elders on the West Coast where she grew up. She's an editor of and writer for Notes From Canada's Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up for Change.

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Severn Cullis-Suzuki: audio interview.

[Editor's note: This is the first installment of a new podcast series on trees in which Mark Leiren-Young talks to people about the issues defining our forests.

Mark first started writing about forestry issues while he was working as a reporter at the Williams Lake Tribune in 1985.

Click on the link to hear Mark's conversation with Severn Cullis-Suzuki (editor of Notes From Canada's Young Activists: A Generation Stands Up for Change) about why she doesn't call herself an environmentalist, how she'd run B.C.'s forests, and staying optimistic about the world no matter how much it heats up.]

Trees. If you're from BC, you're probably already picturing a rainforest.

When people from outside B.C. arrive here, they assume we're defined by the mountains or the ocean, but what really defines the province aesthetically, economically, politically and spiritually is trees.

Environmentalism is a British Columbian's birthright. Our province launched Greenpeace, The Sea Shepherd Society and helped unleash Dr. David Suzuki, who's so iconic that when I used to play an environmentalist in my comedy troupe, Local Anxiety, I'd refer to him as my spiritual leader.

But cutting trees is a B.C. birthright too. Our economy -- and many of our communities -- have historically been fuelled by forests.

In 1991, director John Juliani and I started talking about creating a series of stories about trees for CBC Radio or TV. My favourite title -- until coming up with The Green Chain -- was Shoot the Spotted Owl, which was inspired by former B.C. IWA boss, Jack Munro. After logging was stopped in some U.S. forests because of the discovery of endangered owls, Munro told The New York Times, "I tell my guys if they see a spotted owl to shoot it."

After John Juliani passed away in 2003, I wrote a script to tell the stories we'd always talked about. I had the pleasure of working with John on several projects for radio and stage and whenever he directed something he always hoped it would spark a conversation.

The Green Chain podcast is part of that conversation -- and I can't think of a better place to be talking about trees than The Tyee.

Every two weeks we'll post a new interview with someone who has a unique perspective on forests and the environment.

Just before we started shooting the movie, I met John Wiggers, the former chair of the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada and he told me, "B.C. is ground zero for global logging issues." He said there is nowhere else that the passions -- and the divisions -- run so deep. This is a place for people to share those passions.

I can think of a hundred people I'm excited about talking to -- and I'm sure you can think of thousands more who I should be talking to. So please post those suggestions and I'll add them to the list.

And please take advantage of the comments section here at The Tyee to talk about trees, forests and our planet.

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