From Conflict to Harmony in the Forest

by Rolf Skar

November 19, 2010


"Spirit Bear" in the Great Bear Rainforest

From coast to coast, many people will watch the debut of the movie “Harmony” on NBC tonight.  If you’re one of them, you’ll see Greenpeace highlighted for its successful work to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.

The story of the Great Bear could be the subject of its own movie.  Years of activism and engagement by a wide range of stakeholders – from green groups and Indigenous Peoples to government officials and industry – are part of the more than decade-long journey that led to the agreement that took effect earlier this year.  While there are still years of hard work ahead to fully implement the agreement, the Great Bear is already a “greenprint” that many point to as a leading model for conservation and conflict resolution the world over.

Greenpeace first started campaigning to expose the destruction of coastal temperate rainforests on the Canadian coast in 1991.  Through much of the 1990s, Greenpeace used headline-grabbing acts of civil disobedience to draw attention to the plight of the coastal temperate rainforests and confront deforestation at its source.

In 1997, Greenpeace, along with other conservation groups, launched an official campaign focused on the Great Bear Rainforest.  As that campaigning gained momentum, large customers of wood products in the U.S., Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Germany canceled contracts with coastal rainforest logging companies.

Blockade of Great Bear Rainforest timber imports in EuropeConflict began to transform into “harmony” with the formation of the Rainforest Solutions Project (RSP), a joint initiative of Greenpeace, ForestEthics, Rainforest Action Network and Sierra Club British Columbia.  After years of controversy, industry had to sit down with the RSP.  In turn, government began negotiations with First Nations.  While not as flashy as the stunts and civil disobedience often highlighted by the media, years of intense negotiations and detailed behind-the-scenes work brought us to the landmark achievement we celebrated this year.

This is not the only time we’ve seen conflict prompt parties to get to the negotiation table and forge long-term solutions.  In fact, it is something we see over and over again with Greenpeace campaigns.  From the success of our “Kleercut” campaign that changed Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark, to the landmark announcement of the Boreal Forest Agreement earlier this year, conflict has turned complacency into urgency, and prompted stakeholders to change business as usual.

We see the same things going on in other forests around the world where our campaigns are making a difference.  Greenpeace has been working for years to expose how the expansion of palm oil and pulp and paper plantations are driving deforestation and climate pollution in the Paradise Forests of southeast Asia.  That work is bearing fruit as companies cut business with rainforest destroyers and pressure builds for long-term solutions.  Want to be part of the next push to tranform conflict to “harmony?”  Click here to add your voice to the growing call for fast food companies to stop serving up rainforest destruction!

For the forest,


Rolf Skar

By Rolf Skar

Rolf Skar is the Campaigns Director at Greenpeace USA. Since 2007, Rolf has contributed to international Greenpeace campaigns to stop deforestation in the Canadian boreal forest, the Paradise forests of Southeast Asia, and the Brazilian Amazon.

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