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Review

Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest

By Caitlyn Vernon

November 4, 2013

Review By Margaret (Maggie) Low

The Great Bear Rainforest, also known as the North and Central Coast of British Columbia, is one of the last intact temperate rainforests left in the world. This region has received much attention since 1989, when a campaign under the Raincoast Conservation Society coined the name “Great Bear Rainforest” and began efforts to protect the ecologically rich rainforest valleys from logging. The environmental and land use controversy was resolved somewhat in 2006 through innovative negotiations and compromise with the signing of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. The region is now the site of a controversial oil pipeline slated to run straight through this rainforest to the Pacific Ocean, where oil tankers will transport the bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Asia. There is no better time to assess the social and ecological significance of this region. Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest, carries on this conversation in a nuanced way.

This book is written for youth. Author and environmental activist Caitlin Vernon uses simple language and explanations, vivid photographs, cartoons, “did you know” sections, and personal stories to teach the reader about the importance and beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest. Further, Vernon explains the reasons why one might care about the people and ecology of this region and suggests ways to take action.

The author begins by describing the basics of the area: its geography, the people who live there, and the crucial ecological role played by the rainforest both locally and globally. In ten short and rich chapters, Vernon tells us about the First Nations people who have lived in the area for millennia. She then provides a description of the forest, plant, and wildlife ecology as well as the long history of natural resource extraction in the area. This is followed by an assessment of the contemporary threats to the region, including logging and oil and gas development, and what is at stake for people if it is heavily developed. She gives particular attention to the impacts of old-growth logging and the threats to the wild salmon populations that support the subsistence of many of the First Nations communities along the coast. In the final three chapters, Vernon tells the success story of the Great Bear Rainforest negotiations and the scale of change possible when action is taken and people work collaboratively together. Vernon then assesses the ecological significance of the Great Bear Rainforest and situates it, as a major carbon sink, in the broader context of climate change. She argues that the health of this region and of the planet is directly affected by western society’s dependence on oil. Finally, she uses her personal experiences, and those of people who live in the region, to urge youth to become involved in issues about which they care and ultimately to be part of a better future.

This book was written to fill a void in the current commentary about the Great Bear Rainforest. While much has been written about the governance and politics of the region — the negotiations, innovative environmental strategies, market campaigns, ecosystem-based management — little commentary has focused directly on the role of youth in its future. This emphasis makes Nowhere Else on Earth a unique and valuable contribution to juvenile literature, but it will also be welcomed by advocacy organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions. As the author of an academic study about the innovations of the Great Bear Rainforest negotiations, and as a visitor to the region, I can attest to the ways in which Vernon has portrayed its majesty, beauty, and significance. Geared toward a youth audience, this book does not provide an in-depth analysis of the political and economic characteristics of the area, but it does provide a clear understanding of the connections between the choices people make and the environment upon which they depend for life.

Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest
By Caitlin Vernon
Victoria: Orca Book Publishing, 2011. 131 pp, $22.95 pb