Is it right to cut trees?

by Franke James

“Who cares about the Forest?” is the question I explore in my creative personal story for FSC Canada.

Do you ever feel guilty when you use paper towels? Do you ever think about trees being cut down to make envelopes? Do you ever wonder, “is it really right to cut trees?”

I did. I went into the Boreal Forest in search of the answer: “Who cares about the Forest?”

Watch the video above. (And you can also read it as a visual essay.)

Special thanks to Monte Hummel, WWF-Canada, Chief Harry St. Denis, Wolf Lake First Nations, Chris McDonell, Tembec, Nicolas Lecomte, SmartWood, Richard Brooks, Greenpeace Canada for appearing in the video story, and showing me who cares for the forest! And to Maia Becker at FSC Canada, for sponsoring the story!

60 Responses: 28 Comments and 32 Tweets

  • Lisa Borden says:

    Incredible, incredibly brilliant and incredibly inspiring to do more. Thanks again for your work Franke – we all benefit in countless ways.


    @corporateknight Who cares about the forest? We do! @FrankeJames did a cool animated story for @FSC_Canada – check it out!

  • I love how your essays translate into video Franke, of course your message speaks in whatever form! I remember first learning about FSC but didn’t realize that all those involved were working so equally and so like minded. Great Piece!!

  • Franke James says:

    Yeah! Thanks Lisa and Karen for your outstanding comments! I’ve been working on this story for six months so it’s really gratifying to get your feedback! :-)


    @GreenpeaceCA Who cares about the #forest? We know YOU do. Watch the story of FSC by @FrankeJames @FSC_Canada #boreal

  • Maarten says:

    Hi Franke, congratulations on this excellent video! 8 minutes long and interesting till the end, very well made…

  • Susan Draper says:

    An excellent teaching tool on the FSC, but you don’t address a couple of critical issues. In BC, where I live, forests are largely viewed by government and industry as resources for human exploitation; what the province calls working forests are actually tree farms. Tree farms are not forests. Forests are complex ecosystems that have value for all of nature’s creatures, not just humans. I do not think that these standards fully take this into account. Of course having some standards is better than none, but what we need to do is mimic nature, not try to make nature conform to what is usually short-term human needs and greed.
    On top of this, there is the impact climate change is having on our forests. Should we even be logging some of these forests at all given that they are the lungs of the planet (as you point out) and can also help keep us cool? I would suggest that trees are even more valuable to us now when they are flourishing in our forests than when they are “harvested” and turned into toilet paper. In an ever-warming world, it makes no sense to continue doing what we’ve always done as everything is changing. Boreal forests, once logged, take a long time to grow back. In BC, foresters have decided that trees will be cut every 60 years or so….which means we will never see those incredible, old-growth trees again in BC. What are the unintended consequences of this decision?…

    Marketplace solutions still allow people with money to consume more and that is a problem. Even if what they consume is “eco-friendly”, it is still consumption. And most likely, it is over-consumption in our wasteful society…. We do need to seriously re-think this industrial approach to managing the gifts from the earth. More respect and gratitude for what we have been given would go a long way towards helping us change our relationship with the forest, the oceans, the lands we farm, the air we breathe, the animals we share the planet with,etc. FSC is a baby step along the way to transformation… Shopping “green” is not going to be enough. We need to think more about what the purpose of life is on earth….The deeper questions and analysis will get us to better solutions in the long run. I know you understand that, but.. what this essay says to me is that as long as I buy FSC approved woods, I can build as big a house as I want… sigh….


    @FSCBelgium .@frankejames With pleasure! Great little movie you made, not available in Dutch or French I suppose :-)

  • Franke James says:

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for your comment. The overuse and waste of natural resources is one of the fundamental problems we face in the world today. Your concerns about logging are similar to the ones I had initially, but as I learned more about FSC, and talked with WWF, Greenpeace, FSC auditors, forest managers, etc., I realized that their system is amazingly thorough and fair — and truly supports wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

    I also have to say that my visual essay/film is not a full-length book, and cannot address every issue in depth — but I can whet people’s appetite to know more. There is so much more to say. Let me point you to resources that I personally found illuminating.

    This one is excellent and addresses your concern about mimicking nature:

    Cooking Like Mother Nature

    Please take a few minutes and check out FSC Auditor’s Dr. Nicolas Lecomte’s educational new game site:

    The Boreal Forest Adventure: Cooking Like Mother Nature

    And his book, Mother Nature’s Recipes (available as a free download). Nicolas was featured briefly in the video — and we have a longer interview that goes into much more depth as to “mimicking” nature. He’s a remarkable resource. He talks about the FSC principle that forest managers must mimic the pre-industrial forest. Under FSC rules, old growth forests are protected.

    FSC’s 10 principles are the foundation of their certification system (I pasted in a short summary at the end of this). Let me summarize a few big ideas here:

    · FSC, and this story aren’t about encouraging waste and over-consumption, but it is about ensuring that when we use wood or paper products, we make sure they are sourced from forests that are managed in the best manner possible. i.e. a way that protects high conservation values (e.g. high biodiversity, species, old growth areas etc.) and in a way that has the least impact possible on the health of the forest.

    · Until humans find a way to stop needing construction materials for homes and furniture, or mediums to communicate, the reality is that as a species we will continue to consume resources. Many of these resources (e.g. steel, plastics, electronics for computers) have a much greater and significantly more negative life cycle and environmental impact than the judicious use of forest products, as long as these last ones come from forests that are managed in the most responsible manner possible.

    · You are absolutely correct that we cannot “keep doing what we’ve always done” and need to change. That’s what FSC is about, getting consumers to start talking, and get them thinking about where their forest products come from. FSC was founded out of a desire for continual improvement of forest practices and a desire to ensure forests are healthy for generations to come.

    · FSC is a standard created by the people – ALL people. Everyone can participate in the development of FSC’s standards, which are developed by people such as yourself. FSC is about finding a balance and about continual improvement. It’s not a static process.

    I also want to point out the obvious: You are a committed environmentalist. If you want to see forestry change, you should consider getting involved with FSC. There’s an opportunity for you to participate in the revision of the BC standard which will start in 2012. If you want contact information, let me know. You can make a difference by getting involved in the FSC process.

    Finally, I want to add that — just as I wrote in my visual essay — shopping is a very powerful tool to enact change. If each of us buys goods that are in alignment with our values, we will create social change.

    So, if I believe that pesticides and antibiotics are bad, and choose to buy organic food, and avoid meat, then I am making an important statement to the outside world and the marketplace.

    Each of us can benefit by bringing our behavior in alignment with our beliefs. See My SUV and Me Say Goodbye story as one example of how I am doing that in my life.

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment.



    Overview of the FSC Principles and Criteria
    Principle 1. Compliance with all applicable laws and international treaties
    Principle 2. Demonstrated and uncontested, clearly defined, long–term land tenure and use rights
    Principle 3. Recognition and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights
    Principle 4. Maintenance or enhancement of long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities and respect of worker’s rights in compliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions
    Principle 5. Equitable use and sharing of benefits derived from the forest
    Principle 6. Reduction of environmental impact of logging activities and maintenance of the ecological functions and integrity of the forest
    Principle 7. Appropriate and continuously updated management plan
    Principle 8. Appropriate monitoring and assessment activities to assess the condition of the forest, management activities and their social and environmental impacts
    Principle 9. Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) defined as environmental and social values that are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance
    Principle 10. In addition to compliance with all of the above, plantations must contribute to reduce the pressures on and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.


    @Snider_James Excellent job @frankejames ! You’ve really captured the story well!


    @frankejames .@Snider_James Thnx! It’s been the #1 thing on my mind for 6 mos! The title “Who cares about the Forest” was middle of the night inspiration

  • Rosa Strongbeat says:

    I think the video is well done and helpful but I think, like Susan, it is also important to be critical of FSC. I work with a lot of First Nations communities whose traditional territories are FSC certified and yet they have not been consulted on forest harvesting activities. There is much room for improvement in regards to principle three across Canada. FSC and forest companies need to work harder to ensure First Nations have the capacity to meaningfully engage in FSC consultations. Until then, auditors will simply keep giving forest companies Corrective Action Requirements (CARs) in regard to First Nation consultation while certifying the harvest even though harvest activities may still be impacting sacred areas, medicines and other First Nations values. The result is that consumers think they are buying forest products from areas where there are no community issues, but unfortunately often that is not the case.

    I intend to be involved in the revision of the FSC standard in 2012, but I think it is very important for all of us to be critical when we see something that looks like a panacea to any issue as sadly, there are often holes in the story and it is only through diligence and commitment that we can work towards a positive end goal.


    @StoryRoute @frankejames does it again – read or watch Who cares about the Forest? #environment


    @JimHarris See @FrankeJames’ new #FSC forest story video & Visual Essay #green


    @bernardhellen Is it right to cut down trees? Follow @frankejames into the forest as she explores @FSC_Canada #FSC #forest

  • […] Earth Day !  I thought I’d introduce you to a blogger, artist, and environmental essayist from Toronto, Frank […]

  • Danny says:

    Great stuff. (And don’t buy SFI!!!)

  • Robert Haverlock says:

    With all the talk, and I should say, the ongoing battle between FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), I was really upset with the fact that these two groups are battling for who has the right to push their agendas. Now I’m not naive, I know that SFI is about the logging companies and their propaganda machine…but shouldn’t this be “Sticks and Stones”, vs name calling and countersuits?

    Your video is a clear-cut winner, no pun intended! A short, easy to understand educational piece and translates quite well. So let’s hope, that we all can be game changers, and push the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to be better stewards of our forest, and compete in a sustainable direction.

    With respect,

    Robert Haverlock
    Sustainable Building Advisor and Sierra Club Activist

  • Ruby says:

    Great job with the forest video. Great way of getting your message across.

  • marta fekete says:

    I just LOVE what and how you are doing this. This is the creativity — what I love coming from a great person..

  • Tyrone Kennedy says:

    Its great to see a problem that comes with some positive news on a solution. Usually you only hear about the problems.

    Tyrone Kennedy
    Concerned citizen of Earth

  • Ali Pocock says:

    That was your best one yet! I absolutely loved hearing you narrate the entire story. It was like reading one of your visual essays, but seeing it and experiencing it through your eyes. The words you emphasized, the visual accompaniment, the combination of video, photo, and illustration… it was all incredibly effective.

    Please do more video pieces! I really loved this one :)

  • Gina says:

    I live in New Brunswick and that truck loaded with dead trees is a daily sight here. As you drive around, you think you’re surrounded by woods, but the reality is a small fringe of trees on either side of the road beyond which there is nothing but clear-cut forests. Guess what’s the slogan of the company that does that: it’s “The tree planting company”!

  • Christian Beauregard says:

    Hi, Although i’m on your side about what your about.

    If you get funding by your government, the last thing they want is for you to go against them whether they are wrong or not. No governement wants to be represented in a bad way, even if it’s the truth.

    Maybe you did not get funding at this point, if so, then your entitled to your opinions and should not be censured for asking question.

    Hope you get to show your art

  • Mat says:

    I am ashamed of my country. Continue your good work.

  • Portfolio says:

    […] Do you ever wonder, “is it really right to cut trees? Created for FSC Canada with Franke James:″ […]

  • Milin says:

    Hello Franke,

    I’ve just watched your VDO ‘is it right to cut trees’ and think it is awesome! If I would like to share this VDO with our customer to promote environmental awareness is that okay?

  • Franke James says:

    Absolutely! Please share. Thanks for asking!

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