• Anna Brozek

Native Forest Logging - End Now

Never underestimate the power of the people.

Nature cries today louder than ever, and we must respond to her calls.

Last week, ten of us forest activists occupied a coupe for 2 days near Mt Field National Park in the southern forests of Tasmania. Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT), dollar bills, ignorance and the Australian government’s arm and leg are part of the complex industry that has decimated so much of this stunning and vital part of the planet.

Our mission was to stop work for as long as possible, and this area was special for a number of reasons;

  • There are at least two endangered wedge-tailed eagle nests in this area, one of the 48 species that have been driven to the edge of extinction in Australia by destruction of habitat.

  • Cable-logging - the method of clearing used in the area - is a negligent, reckless practice. As well as a huge percentage of wastage, extinguishing biodiversity and affecting water catchments, it's followed by another obscene ‘technique’: Burning; not your regular fire burn but a chemical jelly that is dropped from a helicopter, destroying the existing seed banks in the soil and preventing it from self-regenerating.

  • The continuation of native forest logging, as deemed essential by the government during this pandemic, will not be tolerated. We are calling for immediate protection of all native forest areas.

There were five machines in this coupe. Rolling in before sunrise, two of us were there to stay. Sarah Vanny locked on to a loader, loops were tied around the other four, leading to a central line attached to the cable-logger; my sit. I was propped up on a porta-ledge; a cross between a tent and a platform. This portable, lightweight instrument can be set up anywhere; trees, cliff sides, even machinery, and acts as a capsule designed to endure extreme weather and contain all the supplies you need.

The sinking realisation of the extent of destruction dawned upon me as first light rose to shine. Hung about 25m from the ground, against the greasy limbs of the steel contraption, high enough to be above the skillset of the police, high enough to see the abysmal, far-reaching border of the coupe, where the birds begin to sing again.

Observing up high from a unique standpoint, wired with adrenaline and excitement, I studied copiously the movements and mouths of those below me. The scenes played out by textbook initially - workers arrive, then police, then someone reads a bit of dry legislation from 1856 telling us to leave - but the movements behind it were intriguing and... slimy.

The old boys standing around, kicking the ground, having a good old chin-wag and addressing each other by first names, quickly made clear the police and STT were far from strangers. Their mutual interest in keeping activists out of the forest was obvious, camaraderie solidified. Turning to face the forest defenders, body language became stiffer, the friendly tone morphed into regurgitation of legislation, their only shield against the pressure we put on.

The group was moved on, Sarah and I stayed in our semi-permanent positions. We were met with many wide-eyed faces, from police, negotiators and site workers all astounded and deeply puzzled by the ingenious set-up. Cable loggers are not easy to find and not easy to mount - the last stop-work action having been done about 6 years ago.

The flagrant placement of the sit apparently warranted some of the most absurd, false and childish ‘negotiation tactics’ from police, getting progressively more absurd by the hour. It began with simply asking me to come down, to threatening me with heavier charges, then to “We’ll conduct a training to remove you that could cost up to $10,000, and you’ll have to pay for it.” to “You’ve stopped work, there’s nothing else to achieve”, which, funnily enough, I found to be the most absurd of all.

Despite all the pleas and threats, I stayed in the sit throughout the night, and found that, no - work did not stop that day, or night. Shortly after sundown, a log truck driver arrived on site and encountered one of the ground crew (who had not been moved on with the others) occupying the loader machine. After calling for reinforcement, another truck and more STT workers arrived on site, privately escorted by police.

They proceeded to load up the trucks from the pile of logs below me, as the officers lazily twirled their torches towards the bush in a brief attempt to find the defender, who ran off into the darkness. Some stood around a small fire, gas-bagging once again, unaffected by the whirrs and blows of the limp, robotic arm of the loader, clenching some logs, spilling others. Like watching dead bodies being dumped into a pit, I sat there painfully, stomach strained and twisted in mourning for this mass grave of trees.

According to STT's protocol, employees are to cease all operations if there are civilians on site. Not only was I within the boundaries of the coupe, I was a stone's throw away from the active machines, my central line attached only metres away. It was alarming that the very people we instill power in to protect us were there assisting in breach of protocol. One of the many ways I felt completely let down, and even betrayed by authorities. Although some individuals may have good intentions, workers and officers alike just trying to do their job to the best of their ability; on a larger scale, it's a reflection of the government's betrayal of the public. The entire industry has a dire record of lying, secrecy and hidden profits, and when you're out on the ground, the tangled web of politics shows its ugly head.

Not being prepared or trained for this type of activity, the Police Search and Rescue team (PolSAR) called in a crane to remove the cable-logger sit on the second day of the action. Three of the ground crew were wrongfully arrested, having received no time frame on their move on order the previous day. Sarah Vanny and I were also put under arrest, and we all received bail conditions that have none of us had ever heard of before.

In an attempt to crack down and keep us out of the forest, we've been mandated to stay at least 500m away from any location, machinery or building owned or managed by Sustainable Timber Tasmania, until our court hearing in early September. This is far more extreme than normal bail conditions, and it might mean that the pressure we're putting on is actually working.

Non-Violent Direct Action is the form of action we chose to take in this battle. We believe in rising above the tactics of a flawed system, being transparent, unbiased and fair to all. We do not engage in harmful words or actions, and are always open to conversation with authorities and corporations, our argument supported by overwhelming facts on a local and global scale.

Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, and we lie in a period where we have the power to do something. We have the power to unite and rise against inflated ideals and systems running on hot air and an insatiable thirst for profit.

I’ve never met people with more fervent passion for our cause, battered but so ready for battle, willing to dedicate their lives to the betterment of humanity. It is inspiring, and contagious, and it's exactly what we need to mould the world we want to live in.

Beginning where you are, where your home is, is the perfect place to create change. Following in the footsteps of those before us who have been fighting this battle for decades and decades, adapting, getting creative, and never losing hope.

Right now, we are calling for a moratorium to be put in place for logging to cease in all native forests. Against all the odds, present and those yet to come, love always wins.

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