By Bev Schellenberg
Imagine Avatar with a few plot changes. Keep the introduction, the meeting with newly-blue Jake and nimble Neytiri, and the seeds of Eywa floating around Jake in ethereal, foreshadowing bliss. Keep Jake’s hunting mission and the introduction of the Turuk. However, change the plot from the point when the Colonel tells Jake to get aboard a shuttle to regain his legs.
In the new, improved version, Jake refuses to leave, and states that the Na’vi are living beings and the Unobtanium is unobtainable by humans after all. The Colonel huffs and puffs, but somehow, amazingly, the scientists and the Resources Development Administration (RDA) sit together for months to reach a win-win agreement for Pandora, its inhabitants, and the humans. Astonishingly, Pandora is thus saved in a battle of words rather than a battle of weaponry.
Granted, it’s unlikely that movie-goers would appreciate a plot riddled with lengthy impassioned discussions between the opposing camps, nor would movie crowds embrace a story completely devoid of epic war scenes. But that might be because one is fantasy, while the other, it turns out, is plain old reality.
Quietly, behind the scenes, Canadian environmentalists and the Canadian lumber industry have had 2 1/2 years of such meetings. Laying aside their differences and focusing instead on the agreed-upon importance of natural resources, nine environmental organizations, including Greenpeace and 21 companies under the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), have committed to working together. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which Greenpeace’s Richard Brooks calls “the largest of its kind anywhere on the planet,” has been created to protect 72 million hectares of forest and to develop “more sustainable harvesting practices.” The agreement also outlines the timeframe in which to stop both logging and road creation on 29 million hectares of the forest while plans are developed to protect the woodland caribou that reside within the forest area.
The agreement isn’t perfect. The National Post‘s Peter Foster argues that it’s simply a way for the lumber industry to get environmentalists off its back, and for environmentalists to look like they’ve brought the lumber industry into line. Meanwhile, long-time campaigner for the caribou, Helene Walsh, points out that a lot of companies logging in critical areas are not even part of the FPAC. Nonetheless, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is a document of cooperation between disparate interest groups with a common passion, and one that has infinite potential.
So, might this provide a model to the opposing sides in the great UVic bunny fight?
Allow me to explain. Drive through the University of Victoria’s park-like campus, and soon enough a rabbit will hop by. And another one, and another. True to Leporidae lore, the rabbits are multiplying, well, like rabbits. They are almost entirely abandoned pet rabbits, as well as their offspring, and UVic officials have their lands full.
Initially, UVic agreed to sterilize the animals and send them off to sanctuaries, a plan that was abandoned when not enough licenced sanctuaries materialized. The province would not allow the critters to be adopted, and so the cull began. Thus far, 94 rabbits have been trapped and given lethal injections, with another 1400 to go. Animal liberationists have taken up the cause and are asking you to call and email so no more bunnies will die. The battle has become pitched, with activists allegedly overturning traps and both sides conducting public relations campaigns (see here and here).
There seems little prospect for agreement, perhaps because cute animals are involved. However, both the rabbit sympathizers and the university need to learn a lesson from the parties to the Boreal Forest Agreement. Sitting down and reaching a mutually acceptable solution is possible, given enough time and goodwill. Granted, the rabbits will continue to multiply in the interim, but the two sides, however passionate, can reach a resolution, despite many conflicting viewpoints. And unlikely allies may emerge as a result.
While it may be farfetched to imagine a Hollywood blockbuster based on shared interests, compromise, and a contract, it worked for the forest companies and environmentalists. Surely if it worked for them, it can work to save the rabbits, not to mention peace and order on the UVic campus.