Rita Wong | Excerpt from “Blueberry River”

A blueberry is a small, sweet medicine. A humble, watery globe, so fragile and so necessary.

Blueberry is also a mighty First Nation.

I remember spending time along the banks of the Peace River, watching a beaver build its home. Tasting the fresh, clean water of rare tufa seeps before they were destroyed by BC Hydro. Watching the eagles soar above us as we sang for the river’s life.

How long does it take for a highway to kill an ancient forest? One year, one hundred years, two hundred years? We are learning through trial and error, mostly error.

Are we learning?

Cumulative impacts have taken us into climate destabilization, heat waves, intensifying forest fire seasons, polluted air, and poisoned water.

This August, each inhale a smoky one for young lungs.

Capitalism denies our reliance on the earth, refuses reciprocity, puts us on a collective death spiral, prioritizing consumption to the point of collapse.

Can cumulative impacts change this trajectory? Can cumulative impacts restore the land’s health and people’s respect for the earth?

If so, what would such cumulative impacts look like?

Trees—their death en masse, that is—connect the destruction inherent to the TransMountain pipeline expansion, the Site C damn, logging at Fairy Creek, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and other resource extraction projects.

Across BC, millions of trees that we need to cool the climate are being cut down at the absolutely wrong moment. This is a cumulative impact and replanting them might not be enough to reverse the harm of killing trees while they were old and sustaining a complex network of life.

There’s no guarantee that young trees can or will survive the climate extremes we increasingly face. Still, stopping the clearcutting would be a step in the right direction.

Rita Wong’s “Blueberry River” is excerpted from Issue 3.45: Weather (Fall 2021).  Order the issue or subscribe today to receive this issue plus two more delivered to your door.

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