Within 200 years, we have taken a forest of 100% original growth and reduced it to under 3%, and only a fraction of the value from this extraction has remained here for future generations. High-quality wood from other places seems more accessible in stores than our local fibre. The best quality fibre is earmarked for global buyers the second it is harvested, and other high-quality fibre is being converted into low-grade products.
Our homes are furnished with Scandanavian designs made in Vietnam, and wood from this region is producing award-winning designs at international trade shows. Most designers and architects in BC are more familiar with White Oak than they are with Western Hemlock, and there are only a fraction of people would know that Douglas Fir is also called Oregon Pine.
In summary, we are extremely disconnected from what lies in our backyard and the possibilities we have in front of us that we can take action on. We have all the right ingredients in place to be a global leader in innovation, but things are just not connected in the right way, and current leadership is not investing in the ideas of today’s generations.
TWIG is creating the space for possibilities, connections, and relationships to be built in a meaningful way. Time is an essential factor as strong bonds and affinities cannot be manufactured, and people and ideas take time to mature and take form. We don’t have the answers for the future, but we believe that TWIG is on the right path to inspire and fuel this next generation of the industry. TWIG today is focused on BC but is also about everywhere else where wood can be harvested. It’s about coming together to imagine a way to do things differently and then do those things together.
The sector has been dominated and controlled by very few – a monoculture running on outdated software. The future of forestry in Canada needs to involve many, and our idea of how value can be created needs to be expanded beyond commodity products. The Forest Bioeconomy considers a broader range of product and resource development opportunities than conventional forestry, which is where we are headed in BC. There is a convergence in Canada as we reckon with climate change and come face-to-face with a dark history towards Indigenous Nations and land stewardship. In BC, this convergence occurs at Fairy Creek, where many people come together in solidarity and protect the last remaining old growth. These protest actions have brought people purpose, belonging, and connection – something the current industry does not afford.
Starting up is not a clear-cut path and requires many interactions, activities, and practices to take an idea from a concept to becoming visible in a marketplace or an audience. TWIG is in line with this thinking, and it took the pressures of a pandemic for us to think outside the box about what we were doing to organize it in the way it is today. At those first few meetups, some people stuck around year after year and are now core contributors to TWIG on the organizing team and participation as guest presenters at our monthly events. Although TWIG has not been directly involved in helping people and companies get started, expand, and reach their goals, our events have created many vital connections that have enabled such outcomes.
Those who have found success and managed to resource themselves to develop new companies have done so ad-hoc, pulling together connections, financing space and equipment, and shifting policy to enable their idea to become a reality. These people are pioneers in what they are doing, setting the stage for a new wave of wood-based innovators to emerge behind them. It’s the start of an alternative industry driven by different values – values guided by principles of a circular economy, accessibility, diversity, and that includes the regional wisdom of the First Nations. They have been stewards of this land for thousands of years.
These companies lead with initiatives that prioritize people and the planet over profitability and productivity. Their work is creating space for those outside the industry to play a part and contribute to establishing new norms for the future on who is involved and what roles they play.
This article is the fourth in a five-part series exploring how TWIG offers an alternative pathway to innovation that values humans, resources, and the economy.
Patrick Christie is an independent contractor, entrepreneur, and artist doing work primarily under Daly Co. Design with a foundation of Industrial Design from Emily Carr University. He has been with TWIG since the beginning and stepped into the organizer role in 2017.