Category Archives: Photos
Right now one of Tasmania’s most significant tracts of tall eucaplyt forest is being torn apart by logging machinery. Known as BT013A, this logging coupe in Butlers Gorge, Central Tasmania, was once a part of a pristine and untouched wilderness area. For months now, machinery and chainsaws have relentlessly devastated this forest and logging continues. This is despite the fact that Butlers Gorge has been identified by the government-endorsed team of independent scientific experts as being one of, if not the most, ecologically important tracts of tall eucalpyt forest in Tasmania. Due to be protected by the conservation agreement, which was a critical part of the Intergovernmental Agreement signed in August last year, this area remained excluded from any protection and its values have been systematically degraded since then, along with another coupe and two brand new roads which have been pushed into the pristine forests of Butlers Gorge.
This area of forest has been verified as having world heritage value and is a critical part of the proposed new reserves. We are calling for an immediate cessation of logging, and rehabilitation of this coupe. Despite the devastating impact of logging, it is not too late to protect Butlers Gorge. An extension to the current Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (only 1km from BT013A) to include all of Butlers Gorge would make a significant ecological contribution to the reserve and preserve this magnificent tract of tall eucalypt forest.
Please CLICK HERE and take a moment to help defend Butlers Gorge and other high conservation value forests across Tasmania.
What a great weekend! Thank you to all the people who came out to visit me on Saturday as part of the community walk. It was such an inspirational day to receive so much support. I can’t express how much it means to me to have you all come and visit my tree! And even though I obviously can’t talk to you face-to-face, it was an incredible experience to chat on the walkie-talkie to so many people.
I hope you enjoy this little video I made about the day:
And check out these photos by Alan Lesheim:
I thought she would hate it. I imagined her clinging to the tree with white knuckles and a pale face, petrified of being up so high. And if the height didn’t do it, I thought it might be the cold, the spiders and the distinct lack of facilities, that might have her wanting to get back to land. But no! As it turns out, love overcomes fears, and my Mum faced all her fears head on, stepped well outside her comfort zone and came for a stay in the Observer Tree. Now, anyone who knows my Mum will know what a feat this was. She has never been camping in her life and never wanted to. She much prefers the close proximity of warm showers and flushing toilets, cosy beds and the safety of walls to keep out all those pesky insects. The amazing thing is that she loved it so much she stayed longer than she had even planned to.
I must apologise for my blogging absence of the past week. I hope you will forgive me, as I was just having such a good time hanging out with my Mum. We spent days laughing and talking and catching up on the lost time.
In the two days leading up to my Mum’s visit I was busy renovating the Observer Tree. Giving it a good make over and up grade in preparation for my special visitor. A whole day was spent on making the “en suite” and the “shed.” My lovely ground crew bought me some furniture. Now I have a little fold out table and chairs. (I’m sitting at it right now typing this. And what a difference it makes too…. not having to crouch over the computer). The ground crew also sent me up some curtains and other items to make my place as homely as possible.
After a whole day renovating, I woke up the next morning and it was freezing, the new extensions were letting cold air in. I was so disappointed, I thought I’d been making things better, but I’d made things worse! I couldn’t have my Mum being cold. So I was up for another day of renovating to make the house more wind-proof. Finally on the morning of my Mum’s visit the place was looking great! The only thing to worry about was whether I should have the brown or grey blanket on my bed and whether the blue or red pillow case matched it best! I felt so excited and I wanted everything to be perfect!
I sat waiting and waiting… I didn’t want to do anything in case I mess up my spick and span house! Then at last I heard voices wafting through the forest. But before I saw my Mum I heard the call “COPS.” Did I hear right? Was someone calling out that the police were here? And then I saw my Mum, a little speck of red jumper amongst the leaves. Followed closely by the fluorescent yellow vest of a police officer. Hmmm… what were the police doing here? I hoped they weren’t going to stop my Mum coming up to see me! Imagine: for her to get all the way to the tree and then not be able to come up and see me? Well, luckily the police left shortly after. They were just “checking up” on me.
I watched my Mum get closer and closer up the rope. Her smiling face and happy wave getting more and more visible. When she was finally here and giving me a big hug and lots of kisses, I felt so happy to at last be seeing her in person again.
I have really missed my Mum while I have been up here, for almost six months now. We are very close, she is like a best friend to me. We do have many chats on the phone, but that’s never really the same as seeing each other in person.
She stayed for four nights in the Observer Tree and having her here gave me a renewed energy. We stayed up late tucked in our swags, giggling away; it was like having a slumber party. I wont tell you too much more about the visit, because I’m working a great little video blog for you. Stay tuned for that coming very soon!
One thing that can definitely be hard about being up in the tree all the time is the loneliness. Missing spending time with the people who I love. So it was so wonderful to have my Mum come to see me. Tonight as I sit here, alone again, while my Mum is now back in Hobart, I feel overwhelmingly lonely. Although I think the fun and laughter will keep my spirits up and keep me going for a long time to come, right now I also feel the loneliness that comes with the empty space left behind after such a visit. Here’s hoping that the forests will receive the protection they deserve sooner rather than later and I can spend more time with my Mum and all the other important people in my life, on the ground.
One hundred and fifty days! Wow! And it’s snowing! Amazing how I celebrated my 100th day in the snow and now the forest is providing another beautiful snow day to celebrate 150 days. Can you believe that I have been here at the top of this tree for that long? Today I celebrate this day as a milestone. As a symbol, I guess you could say, of my determination to protect this forest. And so today I want to reflect on what it has like to be living in this tree for five months. And to share this journey with you.
Of course, while it is a great achievement in many ways to have stayed up here for five months so far. There are is another side to it. And that is that every single day of those 150 days is another day in which the forests have remained under threat. Every day of that 150 days there has been precious forests of world heritage value being lost across Tasmania. Forests that were meant to be under a conservation agreement. The very forest that are the subject of the negotiations and are ear-marked as future reserves. Sadly, a lot trees can be felled in 150 days.
And so it my sincere hope that I will not be sitting here in another 150 days. Simply because I don’t think that Tasmania’s forests can afford to wait that long. So please, help me to celebrate this milestone today by taking part in the cyber action so that these forests can get the protection they deserve and so I don’t have to be up here for too many more milestones! If you’ve already signed the online action, you can still help out today by spreading the message, getting your friends to sign on and sharing it online. CLICK ON THE TASSIE DEVIL PICTURE BELOW TO TAKE ACTION
Five months ago now I climbed a rope to the top of this tree and vowed not to come down until this forest was protected. It has been an incredible journey, with challenges and rewards along the way. One of the most rewarding things has been getting to know this forest so well. Not only have I come to appreciate the value of this forest, it has also been assessed by a government endorsed independent team of scientific experts in that time. This verification assessment found this area to contain world heritage value, providing clear evidence of the significance of these forests and the importance of protecting them.
The other incredible experience of these past five months has been the level of support I have received from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. What an overwhelming response I have had so far with so many messages of support and encouragement. I think the highlight for me was the global 24 hours of action (feb 14/ 15), with over 70 actions across 15 countries around the world calling for the protection of Tasmania’s forests. This action sent a strong and clear message to the corporate customers of Ta Ann that people around the world do not want to buy products that come from the destruction of Tasmania’s precious native forests.
There is clear evidence that this logging coupe where my tree is located is due to be logged in order to supply logs to Malaysian company Ta Ann. The company have been identified in official documents as the key driver behind the ongoing logging in high conservation value forests. Yet they continue to misleadingly market their products internationally as being “eco” wood and coming from plantation sources. I believe that the customers who are buying these products have the right to know the truth about where the wood is coming from. I also believe that Ta Ann needs to be accountable for the lies they are telling in the global market, and they need to be accountable to the community here in Tasmania, whose precious environment they are impacting. That is why I am committed to staying up in this tree. because I want to expose to the world the truth about the ongoing destruction of these forests and by doing so hopefully inspire others to take action to help protect these forests forever.
Of course there have been some challenging times. And those of you who have been following my blog over the past five months would know this well. There have been times of loneliness, isolation and frustration. There have been many hard nights battling the elements of cold, wind, rain and hail. Sometimes it can feel all a bit overwhelming, but then I look out over the forest around me and remember what it is I am standing up for, remember why I am here. And suddenly those challenges don’t seem to matter, they seem so small compared to the challenges faced by the forests as it is met by chainsaws, or the young Tasmanian devil trapped in its den when the trees begin to fall.
And I will tell you this; the rewards of being up here for the past five months certainly outweigh the challenges. The beauty of each sunrise and sunset, starry night skies and moon lit mountains. Days of softly falling snow. Wedge tail eagles souring above, and owls swooping into the branches of my tree. Morning wake up calls from Carrawongs. And a deep and growing feeling of connection.
Probably one of the most special days was the day I discovered the baby Tasmanian devil that is my close neighbour. My support crew regularly go out to check the hidden remote sensor cameras that are set up around the forest. These cameras record footage of wildlife. When I pulled up my rope that day, took the SD card out of the bag and popped it in the computer, I couldn’t believe it… the cutest little devil sniffing and bouncing around. It was a moment of hope. Because the last time devils had been seen on our cameras was when a mother devil was filmed on December 12th. The night before logging began in the area. Luckily the logging only continued for a few days after I climbed the tree. And I am so glad to see this little devil survived and is now out of the den and exploring the world!
Thank you to everyone who has been following my blog, all those loyal readers who have followed my journey over these months, and to all the people who are just discovering my blog for the first time. And speaking of loyal readers of my blog; check out out this slideshow made by an ObserverTree supporter ( click on the image to view slideshow).
Talk to you tomorrow for my 151st day 🙂
Please help protect Tasmania’s precious forests.
Click HERE to sign the online action.
P.s. With winter approaching I’m need of a few extra things to help stay warm and dry. Any donation you can spare would be appreciated and put to good use! Observer Tree bank details:
I watched the sunrise, the air cold against my face as I peered out from my sleeping bag. Golden morning light filled the valley. It started to rain, a soft gentle rain that glistened like little diamonds as the morning sun was reflected in each and every drop. I couldn’t see the mountains beyond, all I could see was a thick golden glowing mist stretching forever into the distance, sparkling with a million diamonds. It was a spectacular morning. And while I lay there cosy in my sleeping bag, Rosie watched the very same sunrise as it shed it’s light across the harbour. She had been up for hours already. And in the predawn light she and two others had crept quietly into the confines of Hobart wharf. And now as the sun began to rise, the dark shadows taking form, illuminating the huge ship with its great cranes that reached up into the sky, Rosie sat perched high above the ground.
Unlike my tree top perch, her position was less comfortable, straddling the crane. Unlike my view of beautiful trees alive with the chatter of early morning bird calls… Rosie looked down onto a boat loaded with veneer, thin slabs of what had once been beautiful trees, once alive with the chatter of birds too. Now they lay packed onto pallets, the only sound the plastic wrapping flapping in the wind. When I asked Rosie this afternoon about the action, she said the thing she remembers most is looking at these strange blocks of wood and thinking “they look so different. It’s hard to even imagine the tall eucalypt forests,tree-lined ridges and rainforest gullies that they were once a part of. Now they sit lifelessly on this boat on their way to the international market, to end up as flooring” she said.
Looking out across the harbour as the sun came up, Rosie mused that her life is quite interesting! She imagined if herself at aged 10 could see her now! She never would have thought this is where she would end up… perched on a crane atop a veneer ship. So I asked her, “what is it that led that 10-year-old to grow up to do what you’re doing? why did you end up there?” She laughed and said that she liked the view. Then she laughed again and said she did it because someone has to. This was kind of a joke, but there is truth in it too. The forests are getting destroyed and if no one does anything we could very well lose them forever. “You know that saying, how does it go? Its better to die on ones feet than live on ones knees? Well, that’s what it makes me think of” Rosie pondered “I believe it’s better to stand up for what you believe in, than to just stand back and do nothing. That’s why I do it, because I believe we have to do everything we can to protect the last remaining wilderness left on the planet”
And why this crane? Well, the veneer being loaded onto this ship is from Ta Ann. It is the product that is driving the ongoing destruction of our high conservation value forest. Yet this very veneer, being loading onto that ship today will end up in Japan and will be sold as “eco ply.” Spokesperson for today’s action, Jenny Weber from the Huon Valley Environment Centre said “As recent as this week, Malaysian news reports and Australian online industry news, claimed that ‘Ta Ann is producing eco-friendly products for the Japanese market using entirely imported logs from its plantation in Tasmania’,”
Rosie sat uncomfortably crouched on the cold metal crane in the chilly Hobart morning air. As I peered out from my sleeping bag, she was peering out from her marine jump suit that kept her warm, apart from the cold breeze across her face. After several hours she was removed by police, who came up beside her in their own crane. The rest of the day was spent in the confines of the police station. It was late in the afternoon by the time she walked out of there, weary and holding her notice for appearance in court on the charge of trespass.
“I can’t just stand back and let this company destroy Tasmania’s unique ancient forests” Rosie said when I asked her how she had felt about taking part in the action. “There are spectacular forests right across the state being clearfelled right now to produce this product. And the horrible thing about it is that people buying it belive it is environmentally friendly. We need to do something to expose the truth behind these destructive lies.”
It had been a big day, so I thought I better let Rose get off the phone. She was just about to head home when I called her to catch up on how the day had gone. So I guess she’s headed back to her house for a well-earned rest. And now I’m back in my sleeping bag, writing this underneath a starry sky. As I look out across the silhouettes of eucalypt branches I sincerely hope that they never end up on the Hobart wharf wrapped in plastic and destined for Japan. And I am hopeful. Because although am all alone in my tree top perch, I am not on my own in this fight to protect these forests. I am joined not only by Rosie, but by people all around the world, by thousands of people in fact. They may not all be climbing onto ships and up cranes, but they are getting online and signing the cyber action! And the more people who do the better chance we will have of making sure this forest never becomes flooring.
Please take a minute to help defend Tasmania’s ancient forests.
Click HERE to sign the online cyber action.
What an awesome day!
Yesterday I had a visit from Warren Macdonald. His story is one of courage and determination to overcome life’s unexpected challenges. Warren lost both his legs after being trapped under a bolder for two days during a hike on Hinchinbrook Island in 1997. Undeterred, Warren went on to climb mountains around the world, including Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and Federation Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and El Capitan; the tallest cliff face in North America.
Warren tours the world now, helping people and organizations adapt to change. He has published a book about his story A Test of Will. Warren’s courage and determination have brought him international attention, including a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show
Yesterday I waited at the top of my tree while Warren got ready to ascend the tree. I felt a little nervous, to be honest. Maybe it was the film crew accompanying him that made me a little un-easy. Even though I’ve gotten used to talking to the media about the forest campaign… it feels daunting and scary to face the camera in another context. Especially not really knowing what we would even be talking about. (Funny enough we ended up talking about the challenges of facing the unknown!).
I peered over the edge of the platform. And watched as the distant figures moved around at the bottom of the tree. Hmmm… I worried to myself… Will I be inspirational enough? Will I seem motivated enough to someone who is a ‘motivational speaker’? I watched Warren climb the rope. Getting closer and closer with each pull-up. His innovative climbing system involved an ascending device with small handle bars, which could be used to pull himself up by his arms. Must be quiet a work out for the arm muscles!
When Warren got to the top of the tree, he climbed through the trapdoor onto the platform and straight away gave me a friendly smile and a big hug. And we sat down to chat about life. Everything from “Hows the weather been up here?” to the hard questions about how do you overcome life’s challenges when everything starts to feel overwhelming?
We talked a bit about what it was like for me coming up into this tree facing the unknown; uncertain of how long would be up here for and what it would be like. He asked me how I managed to have the courage to come up even though there was that uncertainty about it. This was a difficult question to answer. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I guess the risks that you face by doing something and launching into the unknown can sometimes be outweighed by the risks that you face by doing nothing.
Hearing Warren’s story of facing the unknown… of one day everything changing for him and he didn’t know what life would be like, he didn’t know what he would be able to do or not do…. and getting through that…. This was really inspiring.
I wont tell you too much detail about the visit; because there will be a video blog coming your way soon!
We had not just me and Warren up here, but also a photographer, a filmer, and also Warren’s partner Margo (who wrote about the experience on her blog). It was quiet a party up here! In fact the most amount of people I’ve seen all at once in many months now. I thought that might be a bit overwhelming, but instead it felt nice just spending time with a group of people; talking, laughing, sharing. The discussions were touching on such personal reflections and insights into our lives. And even though we had never met before it didn’t feel intimidating to be going beyond the small talk and getting into the nitty-gritty stuff about facing life’s challenges. (Don’t know why I’d been so nervous about it).
When it was time for them to go, as it was close to getting dark, it seemed like the visit had been all too quick. I felt like there were things I could have said, questions I could have asked, doors to new ideas that might have been opened, had we had more time. It was such an honour to have a visit from Warren. And as I watched him get smaller and smaller, descending to the ground, I knew that the day had been one of those special days, that will go down in Observer Tree history!
Four conservationists have been arrested today at Forestry Tasmania’s Hobart headquarters. An alliance of forest groups including Still Wild Still Threatened, Huon Valley Environment Centre and Code Green conducted a “sit in” dressed as Tasmanian devils. The “devils” occupied the atrium of the Forestry Tasmania building and refused to leave. Four demonstrators were arrested and charged with committing a Trespass. They have subsequently been released on bail.
Today’s action highlights community concerns surrounding recent findings of a healthy juvenile devil in an area scheduled for logging, in the forest of the Tyenna Valley, surrounding The Observer Tree. Miranda Gibson, permanent resident of The Observer Tree platform for the past four months, released footage of the young devil on Monday
“This footage is evidence of the existence of devil dens in the area. In December Still Wild Still Threatened released footage of a mother devil in the same location. Had logging proceeded in this area over summer, the maternal den site would have been disturbed and this young devil may not have survived. This highlights the importance of protecting these forests for the future survival of this species” said Ms Gibson
“Maternal dens are used from generation to generation. It is likely that this young devil may raise young in the same area. With these findings it is now more critical than ever that these high conservation value forests are formally protected” said Ms Gibson.
“Tasmanians are calling for greater protection for Tasmania’s most iconic species. The Tasmanian devil and other endemic species are at risk of extinction due to rapid decreases in population and secure undisturbed habitat. The community is demanding Forestry Tasmania and the State Government install immediate measures to ensure the restoration and protection of habitat for our unique species. Protection of the 572,000ha of native forests, over half of which were identified by the government’s experts as key habitat for the Tasmanian Devil, is the obvious first step to take.” said spokesperson for today’s action Ali Alishah (Still Wild Still Threatened).
Today an alliance of grassroots environment groups including Huon Valley Environment Centre, Code Green and Still Wild Still Threatened (the group that I am a part of) are launching a cyber action, calling for an end to the forest industry “regeneration burns.” Please get on board… take a few minutes to sign the online petition.
I feel inspired by all the people who took part in a great action on Hobart Parliament Lawns today, to bring attention to this critical issue. Check out the video posted on The Mercury website. And the ABC online article. A group of conservationists from the Huon Valley Environment Centre let off flares in front of Parliament House to highlight the reality of forest industry burn offs and draw attention to the community concerns over this issue, particularly the heath impacts. It’s great to see so many people raising their voice on such an important issue. Yesterday again I had burns being conducted not that far from my tree sit. I was lucky that the wind as not blowing my way, otherwise I would have faced another night smothered in smoke. Instead the smoke drifted into the Styx valley, obscuring my view of the surrounding mountains.
I have written quiet a number of times on my blog now about the “regeneration” burns and the problems with this out-dated industry practise. For more information on the health impacts of these burns check out the “Ban the Burns” article below, or go to page the Still Wild Still Threatened website. Please help us spread the word around and let’s get as many people as we can signing the online petition. Our target is 2000 emails. So far we have 120 when I last checked… so tell all your friends about it!
Yesterday’s release of the baby devil footage also got good media coverage. Check out the article and footage on The Mercury site.
The smoke is suffocating. It had come across the valley quickly. Only a moment earlier I had taken a look out across the distant mountains and turned my head back for a second look. The gathering smoke had looked at first like innocent clouds floating above the ridges, but on the second look I could see the distinct thickness and dark colouring tinted with orange that distinguished them from the regular clouds gathered around them. I quickly checked my laptop to see if the Tasmanian Fire Service had listed any bush fires nearby, but there were none. When I looked up again the smoke had shifted from the neat clouds in the distance, to a thick layer of smoke that began to cover the entire forest. Drifting into every gap between the trees, into the valleys, over the mountains, taking over every breath of air. The bright sunny afternoon that I had been enjoying suddenly turned dark, with a looming apocalyptic sense of doom. The blackness filled the sky, and air thick and dense that it was hard to breathe. It was the beginning of the Forestry burn season.
If you have ever seen a high intensity burn you will know what I am talking about. When the helicopters drop their napalm-like substance into the dried out clear-fells an enormous mushroom cloud explodes into the sky. Giving the unnerving feeling that a war has been declared on the forest. The smoke rising up like the aftermath of a bomb. The fires assault the last remnants of life that have survived against all odds in desolate landscape of clearfells. Any insects that have escaped the falling of trees, the crushing weight of machine tracks, and the upturning of the soil, will be consumed by the furious flames. Any ferns that huddle close to creeks in the so-called buffer zones, that have battled tirelessly since the logging against the sudden exposure to wind and sun, will now lose their final battle, blackening and dying in the wake of the fire.
If you have ever walked through a clearfell that still smolders in the aftermath of forestry burns you will know what I am talking about. You will know the smell that assaults your nostrils making it hard to breathe. It is not the smell of wildfire. It has a strange smell that is hard to put your finger on, that is reminiscent of some strange chemical experiment in a science laboratory. It is a smell that does not belong in the forest. You will know the feel of radiating heat that burns through your shoes as you trump through the bed of ash. The scene is like a postapocalyptic world. It becomes almost impossible to recollect what once stood there. The lush green rainforest, babbling creeks, fern gullies seem like a whole world away, as you stand amongst blackened stumps, smoke still escaping silently from their charcoalled shells. Every thing is shade of black or grey. Even you, as the smoke and ash begin to stick to your skin and clothes. The smell of smoke with it’s strange hint of chemicals will linger on your skin long after you’ve left. And even longer you will find the scene of death and destruction will linger in your mind. It will flash past your memory suddenly, like a sad prediction of the future, next time you are standing by a creek that is bursting with ferns, and moss-laden sassafras trees.
I long for fresh air as the darkness of the smoke swallows my tree. It’s hard to breath. I can feel the smoke in the back of my throat, my lungs, my eyes. You don’t have to be sitting at the top of a tree in the forest to feel the impact though. The smoke makes it’s way through towns. Leaving it’s mark on the clean white sheets hung out to dry on suburban clothes lines. And most of all leaving its mark on the insides of the lungs of those who suffer from asthma. The forestry burn season is always a more difficult time for asthma sufferers in Tasmania. To the point where it has been recommended that people who suffer from asthma should stay indoors! Why is it that in Tasmania the logging industry is valued more than public health?
Below is a slide-show of images taken on April 4th 2012. The images depict two logging coupes. One in the Weld Valley where conservationists gathered to display a banner reading “Stop selling forest destruction.” The other is in the Plenty valley, where a burn off was taking place in a logged coupe. Both these areas are within the 572,000 hectare area of proposed new forest reserves that have now been verified as high conservation value. They are areas that should have been in a moratorium, yet have now been felled and burnt. The images are taken by Rob Blakers and Peter Maarsaveen.