Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 319
It has been a wave of emotions since I first read the news on Saturday that the forest talks had collapsed. To be honest I didn’t believe it when I first saw those words on my computer screen. Is this a joke? A mistake? No, it was true. They were over, with no agreement reached. No forests protected.
After more than two years of talking, and already $130 million of assistance to the forestry industry, there was not to be one hectare of forest saved from logging. I had been waiting for the end of October, for the final (“we really mean it this time”) deadline. If an agreement was reached it would have been off to Parliament for a vote by the end of November , and I maybe I could have been off to visit my family by Christmas? I know I should have learnt from my mistakes of the past ….don’t get too hopeful about these things. But somehow there is always this little part of me that wont let go. Even when I have so many very rational doubts, that little piece of me just wants to believe that this it could happen. And so, without realising it I found myself day dreaming… imaging Christmas at Mum and Dad’s, swimming on warm summer days, going for bush walks in the new reserves…. you get the picture.
Deep in my heart though, I knew that this was fanciful. It’s not that I don’t believe that we can protect these forests. I absolutely, one hundred percent do. It’s just that the warning signs have been getting clearer and clearer over these past months . There were the obvious problems: missed deadlines and broken promises, money to the industry and no conservation gains. Then there were the more subtle problems, the ones that began to rear their heads, the ones that were by far the scariest. Like the idea that the agreement might endorse Ta Ann, even if they didn’t transition out of native forests.
Of course I want to see the forests protected. But the question is, can we accept this at any cost?
What if that cost of protecting some areas is the intensification of logging in areas outside the reserves? A durability clause that takes away the community’s right to speak out against logging practices? An entrenchment of native forest destruction? Burning native forests for electricity generations? And giving a green tick of approval to an industry that continues clear felling of native forests? Because that is exactly how this deal appears to be shaping up. The Interim Agreement that was release in August includes all of this worrying elements. And if a deal is rushed through in these next few days it is likely to carry those same clauses. Such deal a cannot be expected to stand the test of the market. Because none of these things would meet the expectations of people around the world who want to buy environmentally sustainable products. However, the chance for forest protection doesn’t have to be buried along with the deal. There are still ways that we can protect these forests, and even bring about a more holistic solution.
Yet right now, everything is still up in the air. With media commentary today eluding to the fact that informal talks are still continuing between some negotiators. And some holding on to the hope that a deal made still be pulled out of the blue before Wednesday. For the sake of this spectacular forest that has become my home, I would love to find out on Wednesday that the talks has succeeded in protecting Tasmania’s forests. However, looking at the track record of the talks so far, I cannot see how it is possible. Given that the signatories spent over two years talking and were unable to address the underlying issues relating to forest conservation… the question remains: how could these issues be resolved in a real and meaningful way by the signatories in the next two days? By all means, they can give it a go. However, what we really risk here is getting a band-aid solution that fails to relieve the pressures that pushed the parties together in the first place. The key pressure being the unacceptability of native forest destruction in today’s global market place.
And so I remain hesitant to support a “returning of the talks at all costs” approach. Tasmania has a chance to move forward towards sustainability. Just because the forest negotiators were unable to find a solution that would protect Tasmania’s forests, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. And it doesn’t mean we should accept anything less.
Today the figure of 475,000 hectares began to float around the media. What happened to the other 88,000 hectares of verified world heritage and national heritage value forest? Which of Tasmania’s globally significant forests will be handed over to industrial scale logging? All of the verified forests have identified values including endangered and threatened flora and fauna, cultural heritage, karst and signficant geological features. The clearfelling of such forests cannot be part of a forest solution.
Regardless of whether the talks may miraculously rise from the dead or not, the fact remains that an ongoing industry based on native forest destruction has no place in today’s global market place, and therefore will not bring the industry out of crisis.
Tony Burke’s comments, as reported in the media, indicate that the Federal government want to wipe their hands clean and walk away from Tasmania’s forests, just because there is no agreement. This approach characterizes the problematic way in which these talks were framed in the first place. While many Tasmanians have been willing to give the negotiators a chance to nut out a solution, it doesn’t mean that signatories in that room now have the sole power or responsibility for the future of Tasmania. At the end of the day, the responsibility for environmental protection must fall back on the government.
The government cannot turn it’s back on the science that has been done. There is over half a million hectares of forest that has been recommended for protection by independent scientists. There are endangered species, community water catchments and the very climate itself that are being left at risk if the government do not act on these recommendations.
I stop for a moment and look out across the valley that I have watched over for the past 319 days. It’s a warm sunny day today and the birds are out in full force, I can hear them calling to each other across the tree tops. I wanted so much to have that moment of relief, of knowing that this forest would never fall prey to chainsaws. I think of Davina the devil in the forest below and the young devils. They are probably asleep right now, oblivious to the uncertainty of their own future and the precarious survival of their species. Surely, I think to myself, surely the Australian government has a duty of care to ensure the survival of our endangered species? When will they stop playing these ridiculous games and own up to the fact that these forests need protection.. deal or no deal.
Yes, it has definitely been a hard few days, a roller coaster of emotions. I still haven’t had time to really stop and think about what it means for me now. Every now and then I get snatches of sadness, moments of realisation that I have to let go of the idea that I would be getting down soon. Realisations that there is no end in sight for me now. No deadlines. Just the never-ending prospect of staying in this tree. Watching over a forest in which logging could begin any day.
I feel on the one hand overwhelmingly sad. And on the other, a sense of renewed energy.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I would do if the deal fell over. I didn’t know what choice I would make. Could I really commit to staying in the tree with not a speck of a deadline on the horizon? But when the announcement was made…. I didn’t need to think twice about it. I knew straight away that I would not be getting down. I would not be giving up on this tree and this forest. I have spent too long in this tree, come to know it too well, to give up now.
And I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm, because I know there has to be a way to protect it, and that we don’t need to rely on the signatories to do it. We can do it. You and me, all of us. We’ve got an international community behind the protection of these forests, we should not forget it! There are thousands upon thousands of people who have beamed my face across the globe and onto their computer screens and told me that no, they will not stand for the destruction. There are thousands of people who have told Ta Ann’s customers that they will not stand for the destruction. And through this, I know we will find a way to protect these forests, no matter what. Because these forests are too precious to lose.
So I am counting on you, now, to help get me out of this tree, and help get this forest secured for the future. Now is the time …. tell all your friends, write it on facebook, yell it out on the street… Now is the time and, deal or no deal, we will not give up until Tasmania’s forests are protected forever.