John Vaillant: Myth, Madness and Greed

John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed talks with Richard Wolinsky of KFPA Pacifica Radio about the future of logging, renewable resources, and our own insatiable appetite for old-growth wood.


"When a kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited Alaskan island just north of the Canadian border, they re-ignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest that made international news. On a winter night in 1997, a logger-turned-activist named Grant Hadwin plunged into the frigid waters of the Yakoun River in the Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw behind him. When he was done, a unique spruce tree -- 50 meters tall and covered with luminous golden needles -- was teetering on its massive stump.
"The tree, which baffled scientists, was sacred to the Haida on whose land it had stood for over 300 years. It was also beloved by local loggers who singled it out for protection in the midst of vast clear cuts. Since the 1970s, the mist-shrouded archipelago -- one of the continent's most pristine and vibrant ecosystems -- has been a battleground with government officials and logging companies squaring off against the Haida and environmental groups. The loss of the mythic golden spruce united loggers, natives and environmentalists in sorrow and outrage. But while heroic efforts were made to revive the tree, Grant Hadwin, the tree's confessed killer, disappeared under suspicious circumstances."
Starting from this misplaced eco-activism, reporter John Vaillant has constructed a book dealing with the history of logging and its relation to the human species.

In this half hour interview, Vaillant discusses the history of the tree and its region, and puts it in the context of the history of the logging industry, from ancient times to modern mechanization. He also discusses the inherent contradictions we all face in our use of lumber and paper in our daily lives, as well as how loggers and local populations have joined together to put a stop to the destruction of our pristine northern rain forests.

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