Vancouver Island Wet Forest Fern

Why We Need Big Bird

Vancouver Island Wet Forest FernThis post isn’t about US politics and has nothing to do with Mitt Romney‘s position to kill off funding for PBS. This post is about why we need a PBS.

Old World, First Growth Forests (Huh?)

I recently returned from a trip to Vancouver Island. While there I took a tour to the Pacific coast of the island with a retired forestry service worker and his wife who now run a private touring company. The excursion was fascinating!

Only 1% of the ancient, first growth forest that was Vancouver Island remains today. The trees were generally around 1,000 years old. They have all been clear cut. I won’t go into the details of the long term economic and environmental implications of this (suffice it to say that a place that gets 300 inches of rainfall a year shouldn’t be running out of fresh water but is), but I will briefly hit some highlights of the economic impact on the island.

  • Clear cutting the forest does generate a minimum number of low paying local jobs.
  • The enormous profits from this business venture are held in off shore bank accounts and do not benefit the communities that provided the harvested natural resources.
  • The transglobal corporations involved pay very low taxes to Canada; thereby providing minimum benefit to the country of origin.
  • The transglobal corporations use a percentage of the profits to lobby the Canadian government to minimize (all but eliminate) regulations designed to make forestry a safe and sustainable endeavor.
  • The transglobal corporations use a percentage of the profits to market their work to the local public as something that is good for Canada, provides jobs, and highlighting their work replacing the harvested trees with new trees. (To the casual observer who knows little about forestry, like me, this sounds good.)
  • Since all of the ancient forests have been harvested, second growth lumber is now being harvested. It’s far less desirable as it lacks the strength and the lumber yield of the ancient wood. The forestry industry here is all but ended as so little remains to harvest.
  • The 2,000,000 acres of ancient forest that has been harvested was originally public land that Canada gave away to a wealthy business man in exchange for his building a railroad (which he would need anyway to transport the logs). That man only partially fulfilled that commitment but kept the land grant.

I’ve come to believe that most any business endeavor that is boom and bust is not sustainable and has no place in any nation’s economic model.

But what does this have to do with PBS?

PBS logo
When corporations fund information access, media access, news, even entertainment, through advertising revenues, corporations can and do exert influence over content. You can rest assured Canadian corporate media isn’t producing much news or many documentaries about the rape of the old world forests from their land.

CNN doesn’t have a liberal bias. It has a a corporate bias. Time Warner wants to maximize profit margins.

FOX News doesn’t have a conservative bias. It has a corporate bias. Rupert wants to maximize profit margins.

On and on…

A well informed, democratic citizenry needs access to accurate information provided with journalistic integrity devoid of as much corporate bias as possible.

My intense insistence on maintaining a high level of funding for PBS (Public Broadcast Service) isn’t about Big Bird at all. The issue is providing information that is in no way tied to maintaining increasing quarterly profits—just maintaining a high quality product. The public deserves, no requires publicly funded journalistic integrity.

Despite what our broken capitalist economic model focuses on, money (specifically: maximized short-term profit margins) is not the most important thing in this world. People are, all people. Our values are currently way out of balance.

An interesting aside:
This was just your ordinary vacation, but I was fascinated to meet two different groups of people (from opposite ends of the continent, neither of whom had any association with the other) on this vacation that, certainly with no prompting from me, flat out stated that they believe revolution is in the air in the US. I was actually rather astounded by their comments. However, I do believe that a growing number of people are getting very angry with our broken system. I have no idea where this may end up going, if any where, but I suspect it will not be good.