Great Bear Rainforest

Coalition Activism
Environmental campaign using direct action techniques such as blockades, media activities, demonstrations, and banners, to call for greater legal protection against the logging industry


Founded in 1971, Greenpeace now works in multiple countries around the world, campaigning on a number of issues including environmental and wildlife protection. One of its major strands of work is forest preservation. The Great Bear Rainforest in Canada is one of the largest remaining coastal temperate rainforests on earth.1Greenpeace USA. ‘After 20 Years, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest Gets the Protection It Needs’ <> [accessed 16 December 2022]. Many First Nations communities live in the region and have depended on its ecosystem for thousands of years. European colonisation in the 1800s devastated these communities’ economies, displaced their members, and prevented them from continuing as stewards of the land. By the mid-1990s the rainforest and its First Nations communities were perilously threatened by logging, pulp and paper industries.


Starting in the mid-1990s, a coalition of groups, brought together by Greenpeace, organised to protect this crucial ecosystem. Working in coalition, Greenpeace joined the Sierra Club of BC, ForestEthics, and the First Nations groups Nanwakolas Council and Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative in a direct action campaign using blockades, protests and banners.2See Sierra Club, Forest Ethics, Nanwakolas, and Coastal First Nations. They publicised the harmful effects of forest destruction on First Nations communities, as well as wildlife including salmon, Grizzly bears, black bears, and the rare white “spirit bear”. The publicity campaign pressured logging companies and the local government to halt industrial activity in the area.

Alongside the publicity campaign, the coalition also formed the Rainforest Solutions Project, working with local government and industrial companies to pass laws to protect the forest and First Nations communities reliant on its ecosystem. The number of allies involved was extensive: the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative unites nine coastal First Nations from the central and north coasts, and Haida Gwaii, while the Nanwakolas Council is an alliance of seven First Nations communities in the southern portion of the rainforest. These alliances of First Nations worked with the government of British Columbia to agree on land use in the area through a “government-to-government” interaction whereby territorial maps and values were respected.3See above. By forming collaborative “tables”, First Nations communities and the government of British Columbia can now work together as decision-makers and stakeholders, alongside environmental groups and industry.4Greenpeace. ‘Forest Solutions Great Bear Rainforest’ [accessed 16 December 2022]. Together they make land use decisions, and First Nations communities have more share in revenues from low-impact industry including conservation projects and small-scale eco-tourism. While only 5% of the Great Bear Rainforest was protected in the 1990s, 85% was protected by 2006.5Greenpeace. ‘Forest Solutions Great Bear Rainforest’. In line with other activist coalitions – notably, the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests – Greenpeace’s role as co-initiators and collaborators working with Indigenous communities is important because it exemplifies a coalitional strategy that understands the exploitation of land and the extraction of fossil fuels as actions that are completely contrary to whole earth principles which have guided societies such as the First Nations communities of British Columbia.


External links

The Climate Justice Coalitiona coalition of South African trade unions, grassroots, community-based, and non-profit organisations