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Facts vs fiction: Our truth is important

November 6, 2023  By John Mullinder

Photo: baramee2554/Getty images

The Canadian public is constantly bombarded with misleading images and information on forest and paper issues. Some of it is pure ignorance but much is downright dishonest, aided and abetted by sloppy journalism. Here are some examples that need to be contested:

Canada’s forest cover is rapidly declining – Rubbish. Canada’s forest cover has remained remarkably stable since 1990 according to Natural Resources Canada, recording a net loss of less than half of one percent. Current (and future) wildfires will certainly have an impact and hamper the natural regeneration process, but Canada’s overall forest area is expected to remain generally stable.

Corporations are “ravaging large swaths of boreal forest” (Natural Resources Defense Council) – Nonsense. What NRDC fails to mention is that the annual boreal harvest represents only 0.15 percent of the boreal. The Canadian boreal is “threatened by industrial logging” that occurs on only 0.15 percent of it? Or a mere two percent over the last 15 years? Strange how the facts give a totally different impression.


“Industrial logging” is the main disturbance impacting Canada’s forests – Not true. Climate change (the use of fossil fuels) is having a far more profound effect on trees and making them more susceptible to insect and beetle infestations and forest fires. In fact, insects and beetles and forest fires damaged, infected, killed or burned more than 22 million hectares of Canada’s forest lands in 2020. That is an area 31 times larger than was logged for lumber and pulp and paper and regenerated afterwards.

Logging is deforestation – No, it is not. The world’s forest scientists (through the United Nations) define deforestation as the conversion of forest land to non-forest land. Forest land that is regenerated as forest (naturally or through tree planting) is not considered deforestation. It is only when forest land is converted to something else (to agriculture, for example) that it is deforested. The major causes of deforestation in Canada are the conversion of forest land to agriculture, mining, oil and gas projects, urban development and things like ski hills and golf courses.

Canada has “ancient” forests – This is very misleading. The word “ancient” means “old” for most people, as in “really old.” In fact, most Canadian trees are under 100 years old, and only one percent of the boreal makes it to over 200 years old. Certainly, the land on which the trees stand is ancient, but the trees themselves are not. Just like the sea. The sea is ancient, but most of the fish that live in it are not. Tree and fish populations are constantly regenerating themselves.

“Vast amounts of boreal forest (are) pulped for toilet paper” (Suzuki Foundation) – In a word, crap. Only 0.2 percent of the boreal is harvested in an average year, according to a Canadian Forest Service analysis. And according to the Forest Products Association of Canada, less than five percent of Canadian-produced wood pulp, and less than one percent of total harvested wood (not just from the boreal), ends up as toilet paper each year. In addition, by provincial law, any harvested area must be successfully regenerated afterwards.

Most paper boxes are made from virgin market pulp. (Canopy)  This is totally false. In fact, most boxes made in Canada are 100 percent recycled content. They are not made (as Canopy implies) with “the habitat of endangered species such as orangutans or caribou.”  They are made from old used boxes collected from the back of Canadian factories and supermarkets, from offices and from Canadian homes. And that has been the case for 30, 40, 50 years or so.

We barely recycle toilet paper, packaging, and other paper products. (Suzuki Foundation) – For toilet paper, this is true (for obvious reasons) although some 60 percent of toilet paper made in Canada is recycled content. But it is ignorantly wrong about other paper and packaging. Paper recovery represents some 35 percent of Canada’s total diversion efforts, according to Statistics Canada. And the most recovered paper material is used packaging, most of which is already 100 percent recycled content.

Blatant hypocrisy – And here is some blatant hypocrisy from NRDC and STAND.earth. These groups claim that “clearcutting decimates the ecosystem.” Yet they support and promote the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) whose standards allow clearcutting. Huh? How do you square that?

Facts do matter. And it is the industry’s continuing mandate to provide accurate information from credible sources not just to government policy-makers but also to customers, journalists and the general public. Loudly and clearly. The truth is important.

John Mullinder is an author and blogger.  Read his content at www.johnmullinder.ca. His most recent book is Little Green Lies and Other BS: From ‘Ancient’ Forests to ‘Zero’ Waste.

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