“Why do we have to fight to save old growth forests?” Roxanne mused while we walked through Linley Valley, the sound of birds filling the air and smell of humus rich and fragrant. Willie runs about 20 feet ahead of us carrying a large and long stick, dropping it and waiting till we catch up, gazing longingly at it and then at us. 

She’d been sharing with me how she had wanted to attend a meeting in Victoria hosted by the Sierra Club and the Ancient Forest Alliance. The topic was about saving one of the Island’s remaining old growth forest.

“It just doesn’t seem right,” she said, shaking her head. “We’re always fighting.”

“Shouldn’t corporations and individuals looking to endanger or destroy something be made to defend their actions?” I added. “I don’t think we, the people, should be the ones footing the bill to defend and demonstrate the dangers of taking too many trees or the impact of an oil spill on the coast.”

Trying to rap our brains around the rationale of cutting down the last old growth forest we meet Joanne and her walking companion with their two dogs. Joanne was instrumental in getting media coverage for the destruction of habitat at the end of Alta Vista Road, where we entered for our walk, and then helping create a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers intent on seeing a beautiful part of Nanaimo preserved. Now we have acres of forest in Linley Valley saved from the developers axe and a corridor for wildlife to live and thrive in.

After we said goodbye to the passing hikers, we continued the conversation.

“It’s all about priorities.” I said, a favourite topic of mine. “Our priority is preservation and a future with species diversity intact; the government in keeping as many people with big pockets happy until the next election and corporations, developers and the short sighted, making as much money as possible before someone says stop.”

We both agreed that it all comes down to money and what we choose to use it for.

Trying to get someone to change their priorities is almost impossible. They are as rigid in their mind set as you are. I’ve been trying for 34 years to get John to put yardwork as a priority on weekends. Hasn’t happened yet without a whole lot of coercion. Until we retire and have more time, I doubt that will change.

For most people priorities revolve around surviving, having enough food on the table, a roof over their heads, a job to support both. But society today (the one I live in) pushes that further, demanding that the house be outfitted with all the best gadgets, decorations that are pleasing to the eye and fit seasonal events, time saving devices and basically, a lot of stuff. Supporting consumption is killing us all, and it’s destroying the trees in the old growth forest we fear losing. 

My priority is trying to ensure a future for grandchildren, a world where people won’t die from famine or drought, a world where animals enjoy their natural habitat and a world where we work cooperatively to save our planet instead of searching for a new place to live on another one. Having that in the forefront of my thought process influences every decision I make, especially around purchases and the accumulation of stuff. 

I’m not always happy with the choices I make or am forced to make, I’m not perfect. But I know I am mindful of most and sometimes that focus on considering the future influences my decisions.

What is your actionable priority? What do you do on a daily basis that serves that priority? And most importantly, who does that priority benefit? You? Your family? Grandchildren? Or the entire population of planet Earth from now into the future? 

This holiday season, consider giving services, handmade gifts, memories, time. Look at what went into making each gift you give, the resources and energy it took to create it, how long it will last or work, is it single use or can it be passed on and on and on. Most importantly, does it epitomize your priority of what the holiday season is and should be and then ponder if it fits and works for the priorities of your future holidays. That is the key, looking at our priorities and considering how sustainable they are. Stuff passes, we can’t afford to let the Earth do the same.

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