Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 38 & 39
“You must be really getting to know this forest by now” My friend said to me the other day, after she climbed up to see me and we sat looking out over the tree-lined ridges that have become my daily view. “I look at that patch every day and wonder what it’s like to walk to through there.” I say, pointing to the place where the colour and shape of the trees change, “I always wonder what is happening over there, why there are no eucalypts in the patch, as the forest gives way to a small area of sassafras and other rainforest species.” My friend has just arrived for a visit. We are looking out across the view, as she recovers from the 60 meter climb “you must be really getting to know this forest by now” she says.
It feels strange to think of ‘knowing’ that forest, when I have never set foot on that patch of ground. In a way, I wish I had the chance to get to know it better. Walking along these ridges, getting to know the twisted sassafras trees, the stands of celery top pine, the creeks and gullies. But instead, I feel stuck up here, watching from a distance. But in some ways, my friend is right. I am getting to know this forest, from a different perspective than usual. I’m getting to know it the way birds probably know it, looking out over the tree tops.
My friend tells me the story of a plane crash 70 or so years ago, near where she lives… A plane went down in dense forest. Incorrect sightings lead the search party to look in the wrong place. There was a man who lived in an area overlooking the forest. He knew the forest so well that he could tell in the distance that a few trees were missing in a particular patch. So, on a hunch that the plane might be there, he headed off on a two day hike through the bush. He was able to locate the plane, managing to save the two survivors left there. “It’s funny,” my friend says “lots of people look back to those days and think that the people weren’t as environmentally conscious as today, that all they saw in the forest was timber to utilise. But this story shows that people living on the land have a connection to the land. They knew it like the close companion”
The story fascinated me. I wondered, looking out across the forest, if I would notice a few trees missing in the distance? I wondered if I could know my way walking through that forest, just from watching it day in and day out from this perspective. I eagerly researched the plane crash that night on the internet. It’s a very interesting story. I couldn’t find evidence of the fact that noticing missing trees in the distance was the catalyst for the hero of the story, Bernard O’Reilly, to look for the plane. But, either way, that seems to be the story that has lived on through word of mouth. In his evidence to the inquiry about the crash, O’Reilly says that when he was looking for the plane, he figured that it would have burnt as it crashed. He notices flowering trees that were slightly cream, instead of the usual white and headed in that direction, thinking it may be evidence of fire, eventually finding the plane in that direction.
His daughter explained his humble attitude, he didn’t consider himself a hero; he just did what needed to be done. She said “He thought that if there were people who needed saving and it was fate or whatever you like to call it, needed them saved, they wouldn’t necessarily send miraculous means, but his thought was that they would give the idea to someone who had the knowledge to carry it through” [http://australianetwork.com/nexus/stories/s1878075.htm]
I admire his humble approach and his idea that ‘fate’ wouldn’t fix things miraculously, but give people the idea to do it. I wonder if this is how things are with the forest too. That there is no miraculous thing that will save the forest from destruction. Maybe ‘fate’ will just place the idea into people’s heads that it needs to be done. The question is then, if people will act on that? As O’Reilly acted on his thought back in 1937 to search for that plane.
Someone who has been following my blog sent me an email the other day about an elderly person at the checkout. The young cashier critical because they didn’t have a green bag, implying the older generation were less ‘green.’ The response being a list of all the things people used to do in the past (walking instead of taking the car, doing things by hand, reusing things etc).
It makes me think of conversations had around the fire at Camp Floz on those nights that we were visited by a couple of ex-loggers. They certainly wouldn’t call themselves ‘greenies.’ But they were critical of today’s logging industry… Back in the day, they said, it took all day to fell a giant tree and then even longer to get it out of the forest. Logging this way, they reckon, gave them a different respect for each tree. They compared this to the smash and grab of modern logging, machines wiping out hectares and hectares in barely no time at all. 400 year old trees felled in 15 minutes. In combination also with new processing methods plus the rise of the demand internationally, these old tree-fellers were gravely concerned with the rate of destruction occurring. It’s being logged too quickly, we are losing too much forest, they’d say.
In some ways there seems to be an ever increasing awareness of the need to protect the environment. The world seems to be becoming increasingly ‘green’ but this seems to be matched with an increase in destruction, in production and consumption, and the technology to destroy the environment at an ever increasingly rapid rate.
In another 70 years, when they look back on our stories, what will they say about us, about how we treated the land? I hope that future generations can look back at this time, in 2012, when the international community stopped sourcing wood products made from old growth and primary forests. I hope that one day people will be celebrating the protection of the world’s forests.