Trees, Tripods and Trying Times

Multimedia by Forrest Berman-Hatch

I took this photo at Ada’itsx, or Fairy Creek, last August on the unceded territory of the Pacheedacht and Ditidaht Nations. It was taken after the heat dome and wildfires, but before the floods. Deeper in the Anthropocene than anyone truly knows, we are situated in time by disasters. 

High in the air a land defender lies on a platform as an RCMP tactical officer scales a rope to extract her. 

The form of the officer is backdropped by a cut-block— an area of forest harvested and left bare. Green underbrush shows it was cut seasons before, but the relative lack of life where the stripped hillside meets the forest’s edge furthers the story. The land defender’s silhouette lies just above the treeline, with treetops reaching up to touch her perch. The setting serves to visually illustrate the stakes of this blockade, where for over two years protesters have been blocking forestry roads that access one of the last intact old growth watersheds on Vancouver Island.

Below, supporting land defenders wait and watch. Despite their calls of support, the girl on the platform faces the state’s enforcement alone. With only her resolve and the view of her cause for company. The poet Gary Snyder once said, “I stand for what I stand on.”

The platform was built from discarded logging slash the night before. Protestors worked through the dark and into the dawn to get it up. Two tripods were erected and planks set between. What the RCMP does not know, is that all morning cement had been setting on that platform. The girl up there, twenty-year-old UBC forestry student Mia Gregg, has hand-cuffed her arm inside a hollow metal cylinder, called a “sleeping dragon”, which is in turn cemented into the platform below her. This won’t be an easy “extraction”, as the RCMP call it. In the end it takes over six hours before she is finally arrested and taken away to a waiting police transport. Six hours where the loggings machines stood silently on the roadside. Six hours where trees did not fall.

 Below, the watching land defenders take up a haunting chant:

“Tall Trees

Deep Water

Strong Wind

Warm Fire

I can feel it in my body

I can feel it in my soul.”

The RCMP send the structure crashing over the ridge into another clear-cut below. They cheer, before turning to face the blockade. Several protestors have positioned themselves in trenches, with their arms set in sleeping dragons. A line of defiant faces, some smiles and a whole lot of grim determination. Their backs are to the old growth stands they are defending. The police line had been creeping up the mountainside all day, but the sun is low in the sky now and the RCMP are tired. As golden light washes over the old-growth canopies and logging scars of Fairy Creek, they pack up and head out for the night, leaving only a few officers to keep watch. 

In the photo, a white sheet hangs from the near edge of the platform. Earlier that day, I heard a young officer joke “Is that a white flag?” his partner turned, saw me listening and gave me a wry smile, “I’ll say this for them, I don’t think anyone will be surrendering anytime soon.”

Over one-thousand people have been arrested blocking old growth logging at Fairy Creek. 

Deep winter left only a committed few on the frontlines, but as the snow melts and spring begins, the call has gone out for land defenders to return.