The Ghost Valley Community is sharing the story of how a clearcutting forest harvest has impacted the environment in hopes that others will benefit from their experience. Whether this will happen is hard to say but what is certain is the mini-documentary is receiving attention.
The 23-minute mini-documentary "Forests, Fins and Footprints: Clear-Cutting a Community" has been building an audience since its first viewing on Feb. 13 and the list of future showings is growing steadily.
A free showing was held Friday night in Bragg Creek and on Saturday it was part of the Central Alberta Film Festival.
Future public viewings are being held at the Parkdale United Church in Calgary on Feb. 28 and in Cochrane on Mar. 23 at the St. Andrew's United Church.
It has also been recently accepted into April's International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, MT.
Sharon MacDonald, of the Ghost Valley Community, says when residents began their fight against a clearcut forest harvest in 2015 they quickly realized the journey should be documented.
"The Ghost Valley Community through the timber harvest of 2015-17 had a few interesting realizations and one was that we had a story to tell that should be documented along the way. The second was that we were going to learn a lot and should figure out how to document that. A third is we were not the only community to go through that experience and would there be something we would learn or articulate that would be valuable to the next community that found themselves enduring clear-cut timber forestry."
Michael Glaser and Courtney Lawson, who have deep-rooted connections to the Ghost, were recruited to create the documentary (see separate story here) and over a two-year period developed the film. It was completed shortly after the end of the timber harvest, heightening its impact. It was previewed to the Ghost Valley community on Nov. 23 in advance of public showings and received a standing ovation.
The film is largely science-based and uses footage, interviews and motion graphics to tell the story of clearcut harvesting and its impact upon the environment. It also includes interviews with families who have long made their lives in the Ghost Valley, some even predating the arrival of the forestry industry.
"As a community that went into clearcut timber harvest, we spent a lot of time and effort researching, trying to learn, trying to connect with people like Kevin Van Tighem and Lorne Fitch. We feel now that we've created this film that other communities going to clearcut timber harvest will in a sense have their process shortcut rather than doing the hours of research and hours of seeking out experts in the field, they'll be able to access it all in one mini-documentary."
Other voices from the field of forest ecology are in the film: Ralph Cartar, Stephen Legault and Karsten Heuer.
"We found that these voices in the film really helped us know that we were on the right track in advocating for the landscape that we love and the water that we all depend on."
Along the way they had people question why they would wage an unwinnable battle. Others wagged their fingers at the Ghost Valley residents for having a "Not in My Backyard" (NIMBY) mentality.
MacDonald says they have problems with both of these positions.
"Constantly people said to us, 'Why are you fighting this logging. You know I once or I recently fought a land-use concern and I lost. The small communities never win, you shouldn't waste the years of your life, you shouldn't waste your time doing this. It's going to happen regardless of what you do, don't waste your time'."
"We decided early on that what we would have is a strong community of connected, engaged, caring people and that we would work to build that through our actions related through our actions related to the clearcut forestry.
"I think this documentary that was made really demonstrates that communities that take on a challenge, even if their goals related surmounting the challenge are not reached, can use the process to build strong bonds of community and maybe that is even a primary goal right from the outset of this type of environmental activism."
She says NIMBY is nothing more than standing up for your community.
"If we can't advocate for our homes, for the land we observe day-in and day-out, the land that has sustained us; if we can't feel connected with our home and its life is not worth sticking up for, what kind of people are we? It's important to speak up for the landscape on which you live and to make sure it's healthy because only if that land is healthy will we have what we have what we need for life, will we be healthy."
MacDonald says she has been labeled an environmentalist but that's not the reason she became involved.
"Some people must think I must be quite the environmentalist to have ended up in this and I always say no, actually I'm not a tree hugger, per se, I'm not an environmentalist, per se, but I do care very much about my neighbours. My neighbours have been very good to me and I have deep gratitude for how kind and caring people have been to me since moving to the area.
"So my neighbours told me they cared about something and something was troubling them and they had a challenge before for me, I cared enough about my neighbours to get involved. It was important to them so it was important to me."
Continuing to use the clearcutting model in the Eastern Slopes is something they find alarming.
"We realize this is part of a broader picture of how Alberta has chosen to manage the forests of the Eastern slopes and at present we have a model that allows for clearcut timber harvest. This continues to surprise some of us upstream of Calgary when something like 200 cities throughout the world have removed clearcut foresty from their upstream watershed that we're still doing this in a flood and drought zone region."