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The ABCs of blockading a road

When ordinary citizens decide enough is enough

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A is for getting Angry

"I will put my butt on any road up there with a sign to stop the logging and I am pretty sure the community will be right behind me."

Pemberton Councillor Mark Blundell is not your stereotypical environmental activist. Chair of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce, proprietor of the local grocery store, Director of the Legion – he hardly cuts the figure of a blockading eco-warrior. In fact, he’s never engaged in any civil disobedience before. Did he really say that?

"Yes, I did. And I am not a law-breaking citizen. I am not an environmentalist, per se. I’m not against logging. My family are resource industry people. But I did make that comment, because I thought it was important that the community be aware of how serious this could be, to the visual impact of Pemberton, the environment and the general public."

Blundell feels strongly enough about the proposed logging of Signal Hill that he’s willing to blockade the road, and people are galvanizing around him. Unlikely people. Like Mayor Elinor Warner. SLRD representative Susie Gimse. Rosalin Sam of the Lil’wat Nation.

Purely for its improbability, the image of the community’s leaders standing, arms-linked with Pemberton’s residents, loggers and non-loggers alike, chanting "we shall not be moved" is a beautiful sight. Though not to Weyerhaeuser.

Weyerhaeuser and their licensee, CRB Logging, hold the timber licence to log the hillside that provides the backdrop to Pemberton’s main drag and namesake to the Signal Hill Elementary School. The company has advertised an amendment to its Forest Development Plan, announcing its decision to exercise that licence. "That licence was given in 1902," says Councillor Blundell, "and a lot has changed in Pemberton since then."

A lot has changed in the wider economy, too, like the stumpage rate per cubic metre, which costs logging companies on average 240 times more than a century ago.

"I don’t see any economic benefit to the people of Pemberton," says Blundell.

Weyerhaeuser, on the other hand, obviously see some for themselves.

Elizabeth May is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada and recently authored a book, How to Be an Activist. She explains that Blundell is not as unlikely an activist as he might, at first instance, seem.

"Environmental activists, like many other practitioners of social change, come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and even from all political parties. More often or not, people suddenly find themselves in a situation that requires a certain moral heroism. They had not planned to become activists. The reality of activism, for the environment or any other cause, is that it is democracy at work."

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