rn: Do We Hate Irving?


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,

I'm sorry that I'm not keeping up with this list as I used to. The good side
is that local activism seems to have taken off; I no longer feel so isolated
here in rural Nova Scotia and am very busy with local things.

In our neck of the woods one of the biggest companies is Irving. This is a
local Maritime "success story" of how K.C. Irving went from making money
selling baler twine to owning a vertically integrated empire. It has been
passed on to his sons, who must live enough of the year in the Bahamas (or
is it Bermuda?) in order to be eligible for the family fortune. (In this
Carribean country they are residents of, they don't have to pay the taxes
they would have to pay if they were Canadian residents.)

Anyhow, right here in Weymouth there is a big irving sawmill with a huge
appetite. It is not a great place to work and the forests around us are
really under attack. But many people are still grateful for the Irving money
coming into our economy (and angry at me for pointing out the downsides of

Anyhow, in reply to a letter-to-the-editor suggesting us environmentalists
"love to hate Irving", I wrote the following letter-to-the-editor. It got
widely circulated and one of the responses was a beautiful Alice Walker poem
which I share with you as well.

all the best, Jan
Dear Editor,

A letter in last week's paper asks why people love to hate Irving companies.

As someone who has had strong criticisms of Irving practices, I would like
to reply. 

I do not hate Irving companies. I am appalled by the practices of many
companies, and often of our governments, and I work to change those
practices. I am also appalled that so many people let the destruction of our
forests and the rest of nature, upon which all life depends, continue. But I
understand this apathy too, because not everyone can devote the huge amounts
of time and energy that people like myself end up devoting to trying to
build a better world.

It is not easy to get to the truth; in this letter I would like to underline
some facts that not everyone would have the time to ferret out.

First of all, Irving is by no means the worst offender. Canadian gold mining
companies (Galactic & Cambior) have been responsible for destroying rivers
and the livelihoods of people living along these rivers in Colorado &
Guyana.* (I plan never again to buy anything made of gold.) A Canadian Crown
corporation, AECL, tries to unload CANDU reactors on governments with
horrible human rights records at taxpayers' expense! CBC's Fifth Estate
program revealed how Monsanto tried to bribe Health Canada officials to
approve BGH use on dairy cows without any further testing. The list could go on!

Regarding the biocide spray issue: Did you know that when companies such as
Irving or Bowater Mersey (which is planning to spray more NS acreage than
Irving this year) buy biocides such as Vision, they pay no HST? Worse yet,
our Department of Natural Resources SUBSIDIZES these spray programs! (The
Canadian military pays no GST either. I guess biocides and militarism are
neither goods nor services - they are bad diservices!)

More biocides are used in agriculture than in forestry so Enviro-Clare is
addressing agricultural use as well. We will be holding a public meeting at
the Oakdene Centre on Sept. 30 (or Oct. 1) with an expert on agricultural
spray issues, Sharon Labchuk. Aaron Koleszar, a young activist who has
gained international recognition, at least partly for his work on GMOs (or
genetically modified organisms) will also be speaking. Please contact me
(president of Enviro-Clare) at 837-4980 or <•••@••.•••> for
more information.

Sincerely, Jan Slakov, box 35, Weymouth, NS B0W 3T0

* thanks to Probe International for providing this information.
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 23:48:54 -0400
Subject: buying no gold
From: •••@••.••• (Belzer)

Dear Jan Slakov,

I just read your vow in your letter to an editor.  Good on you.  Do you know
the Alice Walker poem, "We Alone" ?  I like it so well I learned to recite
it.  I'd like to recite it for you, but I'll settle for typing it.  I'm sure
the spacing isn't the way it appeared in print.  I learned to say it, not
type it.  But the words are correct.

We alone can influence the price of gold,
By not caring if it falls or rises
In the market place.

Wherever there is gold,
There is a chain, you know.
And if your chain is gold,
So much the worse for you.

Feathers, shells, and sea-shaped stones
Are all as rare.

This could be our revolution--
To love what's plentiful
As much as what is scarce!

Cheers, Ed Belzer 
Interestingly enough, Martin Willison once contributed an idea for this
"enviro-ideas" column I do on buying gold:

Say NO to gold!

In earlier times, gold was found as nuggets, but nowadays
it is usually extracted from poor ores by using massive amounts of
cyanide.  Cyanide is extremely poisonous to almost all forms 
of life, and there have been numerous environmental disasters
as a result, many affecting very poor people.

Gold is a luxury item.  It is easy to avoid using or having 
gold, and by doing so you will make a contribution to the
environment.  Say no to gold!


Autrefois, on trouvait de l'or sous forme de pépites. De nos jours,
l'extraction se fait surtout à partir de minerais plutôt pauvres -- à l'aide
d'énormes quantités de cyanure. Le cyanure est extrêmement toxique pour
presque toutes les formes de vie. Cette utilisation massive d'une substance
toxique a entraîné de nombreuses catastrophes écologiques. Plusieurs de
celles-ci ont touché des populations déjà extrêmement démunies.

L'or est un produit de luxe. On peut facilement éviter de s'en servir ou
d'en posséder. De Cette façon, on peut contribuer à la protection de

Dites non à l'or!

Martin Willison, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
Unfortunately, this idea was rejected, probably because the bi-weekly paper
it would have appeared in does not want to ruffle the feathers of potential

I'll copy one other idea that got rejected below, so it too will get an

all the best, Jan
Don't eat fish sticks

Fish sticks (and often canned pet food) are made from fish caught using
unsustainable dragger technology. Sometimes juveniles of species such as
redfish end up in fish sticks. These juveniles ought to be left in the ocean
where they will provide food for other fish and some will be able to grow
into adults.

Ask for fish caught using hook and line (handline or longline) technology.
[except swordfish!] This technology is much more selective than dragging or
gill-netting and if the fish are brought up slowly, bycatch species can be
released unharmed.

Derek Jones, executive secretary, Canadian Ocean Habitat Protection Society,
Newellton, NS

Éviter les batonnets de poisson

Les batonnets de poisson (et souvent la nourriture pour animaux domestiques
en boîte) contiennent du poisson capturé avec des chaluts, une téchnologie
destructrice pour l'environnement. Parfois, de jeunes poissons de certaines
espèces, comme le sébaste, sont transformés en batonnets de poisson.
Pourtant, si on les laissait dans l'océan, ces jeunes poissons fourniraient
une nourriture pour d'autres espèces et pourraient devenir adultes et
constituer ainsi, à long terme, des prises beaucoup plus intéressantes.

Demandez du poisson capturé à l'hameçon (ex. les palangres). Beaucoup plus
sélectives que les filets maillants, les téchnologies employant un hameçon
permettent de relâcher les espèces non-visées lorsque celles-ci sont
remontées (lentement) à la surface. 

Derek Jones, secrétaire executif de COHPS