Heartbroken

I’m not sure I’m ready to make this post but here I am, anyway.

About three weeks ago I, my son and my Dad drove to the end of our road and walked into the forest there. We walked along a new track, made for trucks and heavy machinery. We met neighbours along the way, and strangers. We were stopped by some men in white utes who told us we were trespassing. We asked them for their proof of who they were and what right they had to stop us. They couldn’t provide this. They took photos of us and we walked on, up a steep red-dirt track, past tall red cedars, one of them with its buttress torn off. Up to the top of the ridge where we found devastation. Bent and broken palms, trampled, bare ground, and many, many logs in piles beside two huge machines, one of them with a claw-like appendage on the front of it, that had a chainsaw attached to the side. Not dissimilar to Dr.Seuss’s super axe-hacker.

This was a ‘selective harvest’ conducted by Forestry Corporation (what used to be State Forests) on private land.

What followed was three weeks of hell. Our peaceful home and community was transformed into something like a warzone. Emergency meetings were held, Facebook info pages made, protesting began at the entry gate and on the property. People struggled to get their heads around what was happening, how and why. Huge machinery traveled up and down our road with a noisy roar. People were tense, upset, confused, angry … sometimes taking it out on each other – there was shouting and crying. Police vehicles were in abundance. And those ubiquitous white utes, with men in fluorescent green shirts in stark contrast to the uniform of the ‘black wallabies’ with their dreadlocks and camo gear.

Meanwhile, a small group of people (myself included) were trying to establish communication with the landholders, to convey our community’s distress and confusion, our desire for consultation, for better process. We managed to get a meeting with two of the owners and they agreed to allow experts of our choosing to go on and do threatened species surveys – something that the Code of Practice for private native logging does not require. This was a small but significant win, but it was hampered by the determination of the owners/Forestry to continue with the work over the weekend while these surveys were conducted. The community and other protestors were frustrated by this limited success, and we were even seen as traitors by some, for making this ‘deal’.

The conflict intensified. I felt torn and head-fucked and heartbroken in my efforts to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the situation. I began to see that the landholders, whether it was intentional or not, had in some ways contributed to a ‘divide and conquer’ scenario which seemed to have us all too busy fighting amongst ourselves, while the trees kept falling. People got exhausted, totally stressed out. Every spare waking instant was being given to this thing. Families were fraying (it was school holidays), work and income compromised.

Jinker-load, after jinker-load roared past out home. A tight system of intense felling, followed by a convoy of trucks and intense police presence to move the logs out en-masse, was put in place. The days when this happened were the worst. Twelve huge trucks accompanied by riot squad, paddywagons, police dirt-bikes and many Forestry utes would descend upon our community and it felt and looked exactly like an invasion.

by Carol Shipard

by Carol Shipard

Some amongst us persisted in our pleas to the landholders to look at what was happening, to show some compassion for our distress, to take action to stop the operation so that some kind of resolution could be found. The response was slow and intellectualised and distant, supremely disconnected.

The intensity of the conflict was too much for me. I had participated as much as I could, at the gate, at home, on the phone and internet, but I was getting so worn down, we all were. Madness was around, protestors appearing who had their hearts in the right place but their heads were messed up by the whole warfare way of holding and understanding the situation. The police gave the loggers the right to make citizens’ arrests, which led to abusive situations, which led into a tit for tat endless game of provocation between the extreme ends of the rampantly polarised scenario. Stories were told of protestors/protectors wielding machetes and threatening loggers, and vice versa. Stories were also told of koala scats being removed from the bases of high use trees, and blame was thrown by both sides.

And so it went on. The felling seemed to intensify even further, a huge number of trees coming down in one day, far more than earlier in the operation. And then what felt like the inevitable happened. Someone was injured. Badly injured. A Forestry worker was struck on the head by a falling branch. Locals assisted with getting paramedics to him and he was helicoptered to the Gold Coast. That night, two protectors were assaulted by angry loggers, blaming the protest for the man’s injury. Work continued, despite Work Cover and police being called in to investigate. Two days later the man was pronounced dead.

guard of honour for logger

That was the day before yesterday. That was the same day the remaining logs were pulled out, twelve jinker-loads worth. All in all it is estimated about 35 trucks-worth have been taken from this land, which is about 300 trees. Which will make perhaps a couple of million dollars for sawmillers, who will purchase the wood and turn it into floorboards. What the landholders stand to make is unknown, but from what I understand, their decision to use Forestry is probably the highest impact and lowest return model of logging that they could have chosen (there are smarter, kinder alternatives).

And so now, here we are in Whian Whian, watching the dust settle. Traumatised and shaken, heartbroken and weary. Grateful for what we did manage to protect thanks to the surveys, but deeply saddened by all that has taken place. And fearful of what is still to come. There are properties further up the ridge that Forestry has contracts with, apparently. And then there is the National Park that this property backs onto. If national environmental protections are handed back to the States, as is currently being considered, these protected places could once again be threatened. We won’t be caught napping next time, I just pray that we can learn to work together more effectively and with less internal violence.

And meanwhile … it’s late Spring. The mistletoe is flowering.

Brush Mistletoe

Brush Mistletoe

The golden whistler has been nudged over by the familiar sweet call of the grey shrike-thrush ( http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Colluricincla-harmonica ) . It’s very dry and we’re praying for some rain, which still feels ironic after the deluge we had for most of the year.

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25 thoughts on “Heartbroken

  1. Oh geez, I am so sad that this has happened to your community.
    What comes through though is how much love you have for where you live.
    Sending you big love.
    Louisa

  2. Sally…..pervading waves of tired shock flow through me since the cessation. I know in time, and with patience, it will diminish. The urgency, and passion we stood at that gate with has left and been replaced by a melancholia that I know I must channel into action. And we will go on with our lives. Never the same again – forever altered by what we experienced at Whian Whian.

    We will never forget. And we will make it count. All of it. x

  3. This is horrific.
    Sending love and light to you and to the trees that lost their families, the air that’s now lost, and the earth thats now top soil. Holy Moly.
    Frankie
    xx

  4. I too feel heartbroken by the plight of your community and the fact that the laws that protect our Water Land Wildlife and Forest is so meaningless. I watched this scene unfold day by day and was devastated that the logging contractors were given the power of citizens arrest. This operation should have been stopped until it was sorted. I think you should be proud of what you managed to save and take this experience and put it to good work in your life to save the trees the seedbanks for our water. Rest awhile as you have worked so hard and your hearts are broken. One thing is for sure you can never be the same person that you were before this happened. I believe that all suffering teaches us about love if we take the opportunity. This is a wonderful piece of writing from the heart. Thankyou so much.

  5. My community in Lucaston Tasmania faced logging of 1000acres to be clearfelled, burnt, replanted with exotic species and native wildlife poisoned. We fought for 5yrs then the loggers came, I share the same pain and offer you my empathy as we were arrested and watched many log trucks go by. In the end we won as only one part of the area was logged. Then 4 of us were sued as part of the Gunns20 court case for around $100,000 each. Another 5yrs and we finally. one. That was the Battle of Baker’s Creek. I used to live on repentance creek rd at rosebank. I know whian whian and the haven of beauty it is. This must have been so horrific to be part of. much love and strength to you. thank you for taking a stand where so few
    dont. Below are two videos of our struggle and eventual win:
    Battle of Baker’s Creek

    The Gunns20

    • Thank you Adam. Yes, one of the strongest things that came out of this for me is that sense of solidarity with others in a similar (or worse) plight. It really rammed home for me the horror of how it must be for people (and other species) in Brazil, Sarawak, Borneo … and yes, Tasmania and Victoria. Your commitment is inspiring. Thanks again.

  6. I would like to thank you and your community for caring so much and putting your heart into it. Thankfully there are people like you and it is because of people like you that the destruction of nature hasn’t happened faster. Just think, if there was no one wanting to put the breaks on logging there would be no Whian Whian. So I am grateful for your intent and the fact that you have accepted there are no mistakes in this experience, only lessons.

  7. well said sally thanks for your powerful words and actions, we now have to put our energy into the land owners who have signed… we have been talking about koala surveys being a way to do this….not sure where to from here but happy to help if i can…Tamlin

  8. I read this with such sadness and anger and disbelief, Thank you for your account of what happened. May you and your family and There are proposals in the pipeline that would see 40 million tonnes of seabed and rock dumped over the next five years. be supported in the ways you need.

  9. Sorry but my reply did not come up as I posted it. I hope you and your family and community receive the support you all need.

  10. Did you know that old growth logging occurs over tens of thousands of acres every day in all continents that have old growth forests? Have you ever thought about the people and animals who suffer consequences like what you described? Have you ever donated money or time to help them, just on principle? Or is your aversion to old growth forestry activism a recent development sparked by the impact to your own lifestyle?

    • Um, what makes you think I have an aversion to activism? I definitely do not. I have been involved in environmental and social activism of various forms since I was in highschool (long long ago!). What I do have aversion to is when people get aggressive/harsh/mean (or devious/slippery) in their communication and behaviour, no matter what ‘side’ they identify with. It’s exhausting, painful, disturbing and counterproductive and I’ve seen a lot of it these past few weeks. Just because I can answer yes to the first 3 of your questions doesn’t make me more worthy of being treated with simple decency than anyone else.

    • We all ‘know’ and many of us do donate money/time/effort to trying to stop this carnage, but it needs personal stories like Sally’s to make it ‘real’ for those who don’t ‘know’. We need the humanity, not just the statistics to show to the world!

  11. What a god-awful situation for you and being repeated around Australia & the world. How long before everyone wakes up to the fact that we need these forests more than the wood products that are desecrated for. I will not buy Reflex paper or hardwood floorboards. More sustainable and cheaper alternatives abound! Hang in there….Love to all who live on the forests’ edge!

  12. Sally, you describe your personal process and resilience so articulately. I can feel & connect to sense the trauma of a complex mix. Thanks for sharing your story. I suppose it will have to be left to my imagination but I’d love to hear personal accounts from various parties within the challenge & including Landholders, Loggers, Police and the wider local community. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a rich vibrant independent media to get a feel for the whole network of competing interests. It must have been a testing time for a variety of folks involved. Easy for me in my lounge chair to peruse investment prospectus and glossy holiday brochures to pristine hideaway’s or make distant comments on social media like this. Well, blessings to everyone – it kinda takes my breath away.

  13. vYes heartbroken too and so close to the bone for me. This is my old backyard, I lived on the edge of the Whian Whan Forest for years making fairies and goblins in my little studio up a dirt road called Mill Road and we thought this would never happen. There are fresh flowing waterfalls, decorated by dragon flies, butterflies and rare orchids and green moss carpet. These forest have been safe havens for decades. Giant vines hang like something out of Tarzan from beautiful tall trees. I saw wallabies, potaroos, kangaroos, satin bower birds, koalas, antechinus, frogs of every variety, pythons, goannas, a quoll and..fairies. I have diaries which I recorded all my sightings. This is devastating.

  14. This tragic tale of forest slaughter and the effect this has on individuals and families in the community has to be broadcast to the wider world who live in an artifice of built up urban realms. I was one of these till I escaped the “Real World” of Sydney and found my way up to the Northern rivers to live. The unconsciousness of the masses views forest as a way to make some quick dollars and still believes land clearing of any kind to be signs of progress. Of course this is absurd and ctastrophic in the end. This appeal by local writer Sally from the heart to the hearts of others who understand and assimilate meaning from this experience at Whian Whian is received as a blessing of wisdom, hard won. I shake my head at Sandras comments of allegations that remain in the highly dubious bucket of miscellaneous tactics to discredit Eco protectors. The moral ground of the loggers in the case of Whian Whian is so shaky, like so much dust thrown up in the faces of the local protectors. Shame on the loggers. They earn no respect for the way they treat others, the forest and themselves.

  15. Okay, Peer I have approved your comment above but with reservations as it does get a bit personally attack-y and that’s not what I want on MY BLOG. It is MY BLOG, okay? Feel free to express your opinions freely wherever on the internet or in the world that you want to, but here on MY BLOG that I created and have been writing for almost a year with only gentle, occasional feedback from others, I reserve the right to keep it the gentle, respectful space I so long for in this world, especially after all that’s been happening in my neighbourhood. I will remove any further comments that get all opinionated and nasty-vibey. There are other places you can do this.

  16. I am appalled at the treatment your forest has been subjected to Sally , nothing short of rape is the description that comes to mind… its a horrible word that best describes such a horrible act of vandalism… the law running scared by getting in there and out as soon as they can, because they know they are in the wrong, but driven by profit hungry commercial interests. I live in Nottingham England, just on the edge of Sherwood Forest. There are around 150 oakes all around 1000 years old within the forest. Yes its a medieval forest and what appalled me the most is the medieval attitude of the authorities who approved this devastation. I wish you all the luck in the world Sally in your attempts to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Your blog is amazingly moving and very heartfelt. Please keep blogging Sally. .

  17. Indeed it is true that threatened species surveys were not undertaken until we begged for them to be, because they are not legally required to be under the Code of Practice for Private Native Forestry (a tokenistic, pro-industry piece of legislation if ever there was one). Unfortunately, work was already underway by the time we got the agreement to have the surveys done (which were done very generously for free by three extremely highly regarded ecologists – Nan and Hugh Nicholson, and Rob Kooyman – incidentally lovely, lovely people) and under the Code, work that has already been undertaken , such as trackwork, prior to threatened species being found, can continue to be used regardless of buffers and prescriptions. For instance – 3 individuals of a rare plant species called Slender Marsdenia were found beside a snig track that had been bulldozed, 2 of which were killed and one damaged. This damaged plant should have been given a 20 metre buffer all around it, but since it had not been found before the track was built, the track was allowed to continue to be used. As for the monkeywrenching – I heard rumours but never had anything confirmed for sure. I am pretty certain that spiking of trees was done, which I feel ambivalent about. It was the work of a lone ‘monkeywrencher’ that saved Terania, after all (so the story goes), by going against the wishes of the group and cutting up felled logs into useless 2 metre lengths.

  18. Oh and did I mention that work still carried on while the surveys were conducted, under a very tight timefame – a weekend? No felling, but logs continued to be trucked out and work on tracks continued.

  19. Sigh. Sandra – maybe in a little while I might be up for that kind of conversation but right now I am still pretty tender and sore, as are all connected with this. I didn’t at all anticipate the traffic this blog piece would get. I’m used to this blog being the little place I go and write about my feelings about my home and not many people pay attention and that’s been kind of how I’ve liked it! I didn’t post it as a way to generate discussion – I’ve had it up to HERE with discussion, especially when it gets fraught. I posted it because I kind of had to – to be true to my overall project with this blog. I’m sorry but I am going to remain true to that, and my own needs at this time. I welcome you to check back with me in a few weeks or months. To anyone else reading these comments – sure, feel free to share your feelings, but share them with tenderness to your own heart and others’ please. And if you want to have discussion about this issue – please find somewhere else to have it – there are other places (facebook for instance). I’m sorry but this little blog is my own little teensy spot on the interweb and yeah, it’s not a place for arguments and so on.

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