The 2016 deal to manage The Great Bear Rainforest has been hailed as one of the most significant environmental agreements in history. And it all began, as many great ideas have, scribbled on the back of a napkin.
20 years ago, this six-million hectare swath of continent was known simply as the “Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area” – a designation that truly represented the views of government and industry; namely, that British Columbia was simply one big resource basket to be divided up between corporate interests. Activist Tzeporah Berman was working with Greenpeace at the time, and knew a greater vision was needed to effect change.
“We were sitting around at dinner one night in a cheap Italian restaurant with a bottle of great wine,” she wrote in her 2011 memoir This Crazy Time, “We needed a name that immediately defined the area. We wanted people to hear the name and be mad as hell that anybody could turn it into toilet paper.”
That discussion led to one of the most effective ecosystem brands ever created. Berman’s words tell it all: “The Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area sounded like an aisle at Home Depot. The Great Bear Rainforest was definitely something that people wanted to protect.”
Greenpeace then took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, literally putting the Great Bear Rainforest on the map.
Of course, like any brand success story, a great name and idea were just the beginning. Reaching agreement took decades of activism, government vision, corporate evolution, and First Nations involvement. The result is a deal that protects vast tracts of intact ecosystem, offers a secure timber supply to forest companies and provides economic development opportunities to the First Nations people who have lived there for centuries. (You can read more about the deal and its architects in this excellent Vancouver Observer article)
Is it wrong that it takes a catchy name to galvanize people into action? Are we so shallow that we can’t look past the surface and make rational decisions based on facts?
Well, yes and no. It’s true that the vast majority will never invest the time to really learn about the complex issues that affect our political, environmental and economic development decisions. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Today’s world of digital and information overload means we need mental short-cuts to allow us to make decisions quickly, that still line up with our values.
The Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area is huge. It’s full of trees. It’s awesome. It is abundant with wildlife. It provides vital oxygen and carbon-capture for our planet. It flows with fresh water. If protecting any of these values is important to you, Great Bear Rainforest sums it all up in three words.
Saving that? Sign me up.
Branding has played a big part in the cancerous growth of our society’s wasteful, polluting, consumer culture. It can bring equal power to healing, restoring and evolving past that legacy.
Now, let’s talk about the ‘Site C Dam‘….
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