Comment: The Gorilla in the Room - GTEC Reader

The idea of “Selective Attention” was demonstrated in 1999 by two professors at Harvard University, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simon, who performed an experiment in which three people in white shirts tossed a basketball to each other. At the same time three other people in black shirts did the same thing. This action was all filmed and shown to a group of students who were asked to watch the film and simultaneously to count the number of times the people in the white shirts passed the ball back and forth to each other. Following the film, the students were asked to report that number. After the students reported their findings, they were then asked how many of them saw the gorilla. The gorilla? Yes. A person in a gorilla costume entered the scene in the film for nine seconds, walked amongst the players and beat its chest, then walked out. Half the students did not see the gorilla.

Whatever their reason for not seeing the gorilla, the students demonstrate a clear example of denial and ignoring. Like the students, some of us see the ongoing destruction of our forests, some simply don’t see it and some willfully ignore the situation. And as the Dalai Lama says, “Ignorance is the cause of suffering.”

By August of this Tiger Year 199 wildfires raged into massive walls of flame devouring all in their paths – people’s homes and livestock, the animals of the forest, the magnificent trees and birds of all kinds. The government would say it has taken huge steps about the fires and about forestry practices, however, more is required. We have reached a point where promises that in 2035 this will take place and in 2050 that will happen are just not on. Why not get on more rapidly with developing alternative sources power and alternative modes of transportation so that we’re not taking on massive amounts of carbon dioxide that our forests would sequester if they could. But alas, the forests have not been treated very well, have they?

Our forests are so valuable. Diana Beresord-Kroeger and Suzanne Simard, among others, have brought to our attention the importance of the forest community and the Mother Tree. Beresford-Kroeger is a wealth of information about the medicines available from forests, not to mention the health benefits from a simple walk in the forest.

In the up-coming leadership election in the NDP, one wants to know about candidates’ stances on issues such as the preservation of our meager percentage of Old Growth forests – 2% say some, 1% say others. Are we not now at the point of no longer logging Old Growth forests and instead of clear-cutting, a more selective strategy of forestry altogether?

The indigenous community might advise us about these strategies. After all, they lived with these forests for millennia before the rest of us made an appearance.

A forest has natural fire breaks such as stands of poplars which do not burn as easily as some other species. Could we not plant such trees as fire prevention? Clearing spaces, cleaning brush, and burning off swaths of field to create fire breaks is helpful. Prevention of the fires or at least making it difficult for fires to rage into walls of flame is better than sending planes and helicopters with buckets of water and a small cadre of fire-fighters to battle such a gargantuan catastrophe. Why not call out large numbers of the armed forces to fight the fires? Costly, yes, but isn’t losing such precious timber a terrible cost? Not to mention the loss of whole villages, human life and all the creatures and birds as well.

Not only do we owe it to Mother Nature to steward the natural world, we owe it to ourselves to “husband” our resources and save the trees. Any good business person would say, “Waste and poor strategy are too expensive.”


Mary Kean, Editor-in-Chief, GTEC Reader