Acts of Balance (New Society $17.95)

When he awoke from surgery about a year ago, Grant Copeland was told he had three to six months to live. As an act of courage, hope and defiance, the 60-year-old New Denver entrepreneur rallied his strength and his beliefs to produce his first and only book, Acts of Balance (New Society $17.95).

It praises two high-tech solutions for the environment—the Ballard fuel cell and the Hydroxyl wastewater treatment system—while calling for the implementation of ‘green taxes’ and sustainability.

Equally important, Acts of Balance argues on behalf of community-based economic development and cites some of the values of First Nations’ people as guiding principles for change.

With his trademark tousle of hair sacrificed to chemotherapy, Grant Copeland was tired yet alert when he was interviewed at the end of last year. His tall frame had lost about 30 pounds but he eagerly referred to the most important point in Acts of Balance. On page 135 he estimates the direct and indirect public costs of the B.C. forest industry at more than $10 billion annually—a staggering $136,000 subsidy per forest worker.

“They can’t refute the figures,” he said defiantly. “They’d be crazy to try. If they want to argue the numbers, let’s get it on.”

Copeland said an unholy alliance between the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), the large corporations and the provincial government has maintained Mafia-like control over the forest industry. This triumvirate has blocked the imposition of ecologically sustainable parameters.

Copeland’s formula for change is an “immediate province-wide reduction of at least 50 percent in the AAC (allowable annual cut) to bring it more in line with the sustainable limits of ecosystem-based forestry.”

Far from being a recipe for disaster, Copeland claims the 47 percent reduction in the allowable cut ordered to save the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest has actually resulted in an improved economy. “There’s been an increase in jobs, an increase in wages,” he said. “These facts are irrefutable. It’s because quality of life has become a major consideration. People are looking for a good place to live and work.”

As a graduate in urban planning, Copeland first became a community activist when he helped establish a houseboat community in Seattle. He then became closely involved in the 25-year struggle to increase local control of the forest industry in the Slocan Valley with the Valhalla Wilderness Society.

As well, Acts of Balance draws upon Copeland’s frustrations and joys when he helped plan and build the year-round Retallack Resort, a snowcat skiing (winter) and eco-tour (summer) development located on the old townsite of Whitewater, midway between Kaslo and New Denver.

Copeland is blunt about humanity’s prospects if we do not implement a profound transition in the way we use nature. “We need to deal with population growth and the distribution of wealth,” Copeland said, “or we’re toast.”

Citing statistics from the United Nations Human Development Index, Copeland’s book decries the fact that 200 individuals have more wealth than 41 percent of the world population. “These 200 people more than doubled their net worth to $1 trillion in only four years (1994 to 1998),” he says. “The system that allows this to happen has got to be changed. It’s too far out of whack.”

Copeland told me three things need to happen to facilitate a turnaround in humanity’s fortunes.

1. start harvesting our resources sustainably
2. stop the subsidies for resource extractors
3. institute taxes on pollution and wasted energy

In December, Grant Copeland spent more than two hours signing books at Motherlode Bookstore in his New Denver, hometown, where Acts of Balance has become the bestseller.

As a board member of the Sierra Club of B.C., Copeland was also honoured when club conservation chair Vicky Husband recently announced the establishment of the Grant Copeland Award for outstanding achievement in balancing conservation, economic viability, and community. As well, a new Copeland Fund will advance work in areas such as ecological economics, the promotion of appropriate eco-tourism, and the protection of the Stikine, Grant’s favourite wilderness area.

Grant Copeland died of cancer on January 8th. As a blueprint for change, Acts of Balance is his lasting will and testament. 0-86571-410-X


[Michael Jessen / BCBW 2000]