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The ObserverTree
January 17, 2012 2:09 AM   Subscribe

On Dec 14, 2011 Miranda Gibson climbed 200ft up a tree in Tasmania. She hasn't yet come down.

Tree-sitting in the aid of conservation has a long history in Tasmania. This one is in a coupe that has been promised protection but Miranda can see the loggers arriving. She can also see a lot more and so can you.
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posted by Kerasia (30 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The tree top platform is fully equipped with the technology to communicate to the world

Having lived in a hot house for many months with no electricity or water, I would have happily traded that time for the top of a beautiful tree with internet access.

Hope she can stop the loggers, but it's unlikely.
posted by Malice at 2:17 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Conservationists have to win again and again and again. The enemy only has to win once. We can’t win. We can only get a stay of execution.

All a conservation group can do is defer something. There’s no such thing as a permanent victory. After we win a battle, the wilderness is still there, and still vulnerable. When a conservation group loses a battle, the wilderness is dead.” - David Brower
posted by dubold at 2:30 AM on January 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


That should be "coup" (no e), right? Either way, I've just learned a word.

She is brave and good. Unlike her opponents.
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on January 17, 2012


She is brave and good. Unlike her opponents.

you have reminded me of another discouraging quote, which I hope is irrelevant:


"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
posted by louche mustachio at 2:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


Climbing up a 200ft tree in Tasmania and never coming down again is exactly what I want to do and I never knew it.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:37 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's nothing, Mel Gibson has been out of his tree for years now!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Getting out of your tree only requires losing one's grip. Climbing up a tall tree and camping there requires substantial determination.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:54 AM on January 17, 2012


Pracowity: coupe, n, A periodic felling of trees; also, the area so cleared. (OED)

Well done, Miranda. I grew up in southern Tasmania not far from a logging area, and know exactly what sort of mindset she's up against. Too many Tasmanians would still agree with 1980s state premier Robin Gray's assessment of the Franklin River (which is near her tree) as "nothing but a brown ditch, leech-ridden, unattractive to the majority of people". Too many Tasmanians have never ventured out of the state, or rarely, and have no idea how unique a place they live in. I've visited a fair few temperate forests around the world, and rainforests, and none are quite the same as Tassie's - not even in the rest of Australia.

Fortunately, the state had an influx of new blood several years ago when mainland Australians visited in droves after 9/11 - many fell in love with it and moved there. Those newcomers, and many born and raised Tasmanians, don't want to see any more old-growth forests logged. But they're up against some entrenched attitudes: the idea that the only proper way for a man to earn a crust is to dig something up, chop something down or build an enormous concrete dam. The political landscape is shifting as voter attitudes do, but not fast enough, and the forestry industry still has too strong a grip. And for an industry that always bleats about the jobs that will be lost, it employs a relative handful of people. Never any thought for the tourist industry jobs that will be lost if the forests are destroyed, of course; let alone the rest.
posted by rory at 5:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Tree-sitting in the aid of conservation has a long history in Tasmania.

This is the first thing I've ever learned about Tasmanian history and, if the rest of it is this interesting, I'd like to learn more.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:05 AM on January 17, 2012


Life imitates art.
posted by unSane at 5:26 AM on January 17, 2012


I still remember when Julia Hill did this for 738 days. Goos luck Miranda.
posted by Sailormom at 5:27 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the first thing I've ever learned about Tasmanian history and, if the rest of it is this interesting, I'd like to learn more.

The rest of it is intensely interesting, and Tasmanians (let alone Australians) don't know enough of it. Tasmania's nineteenth-century convict, whaling and settler history is full of staggering stories. (You may know it as "Van Diemen's Land".)

If you're after a primer on Tasmania's conservation battles since the 1960s, this four-part Wilderness Society article could be a starting point, although it might presume too much background knowledge. The photographs of Peter Dombrovskis (try a Google image search on his name) and the writings (and films) of Richard Flanagan are also worthwhile.

The world's first green party was Tasmanian, founded forty years ago.
posted by rory at 5:29 AM on January 17, 2012



The rest of it is intensely interesting, and Tasmanians (let alone Australians) don't know enough of it. Tasmania's nineteenth-century convict, whaling and settler history is full of staggering stories. (You may know it as "Van Diemen's Land".)


Immortalized in poetry:

If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemens land. ~ Emily Dickinson
posted by infini at 5:45 AM on January 17, 2012


[Hey, I thought I recognised the face on the still for that video about the UTG. Geoff must be talking about the trip that my father and others did with him when I was 3-going-on-4. Must get Dad to dig out his slides and scan them...]
posted by rory at 6:00 AM on January 17, 2012


In related news: Your mother is on the roof and she won't come down.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:17 AM on January 17, 2012


I don't follow the efficacy of this type of protest. It's well and good that she has Internet access, but doesn't she also need provisions? My understanding was that Julia Hill had a support crew on the ground and a lifting system of ropes. That's where my understanding stumbles. If the logging company has the legal right to clear the land, then surely they also have the legal right to eject the ground support crew. (Hence why climbing the tree is necessary.) That would seem to put a ceiling on the life of the tree-sit: When she runs out of food and water, she has to come down and so does the tree.
posted by red clover at 6:23 AM on January 17, 2012


The efficacy of this type of protest is that we are now aware of it. If that specific tree is protected, it's a bonus, but it's more likely that it will come down. When it does, though, the world will know about it. That tree now has a name, an identity, and a significance that thousands of its felled counterparts haven't had.
posted by rory at 6:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


See also efficacy of the Chipko* movement
posted by infini at 7:16 AM on January 17, 2012


Climbing a tree and never coming down is basically the premise of Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees, one of my favourite novels.
posted by oulipian at 8:02 AM on January 17, 2012




I don't follow the efficacy of this type of protest. It's well and good that she has Internet access, but doesn't she also need provisions? My understanding was that Julia Hill had a support crew on the ground and a lifting system of ropes. That's where my understanding stumbles. If the logging company has the legal right to clear the land, then surely they also have the legal right to eject the ground support crew. (Hence why climbing the tree is necessary.) That would seem to put a ceiling on the life of the tree-sit: When she runs out of food and water, she has to come down and so does the tree.


Actions like this are largely reliant upon public support. You keep witnesses and cameras around, and hope that the company or government are unwilling to become aggressive under the public eye.

The long term game is to get protection for the area, by delaying the bulldozers long enough for your campaign to garner public interest and support.

It's a fuck of a lot better than tree spiking.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:17 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just remembered that Errol Flynn was born in Tasmania. So now I have two things to associate with the place; swashbuckling and tree-sitting.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:42 AM on January 17, 2012


Miranda talks on her blog quite a bit about Ta Ann, a Malaysian forestry company that will be turning these old-growth trees into so-called "eco-plywood". It seems as if they're running into trouble with one of their potential markets: some of those timbers were destined to be used in Olympic buildings in London. Unfortunately, the company is ploughing on regardless. (The comments on that last link have ample evidence of the mindset I mentioned upthread.)
posted by rory at 9:53 AM on January 17, 2012


While I wholeheartedly support her effort, and follow treesits with interest, I think it important to note that one of the main problems in arguing against logging and for tourism is that logging jobs pay very well, while tourism jobs generally do not. For some reason it is difficult to drive home the point that logging jobs (as they are done today, particularly) are unsustainable, while eco-tourism is for the long term.

As someone who lives in a formerly industrial area turned tourism-oriented, the struggle for a living wage continues apace.
posted by RedEmma at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Climbing a tree and never coming down is basically the premise of Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees, one of my favourite novels.
posted by oulipian


Add another to that list: Climbing a tree and not coming down in order to prevent environmental damage to a forest of redwoods is also a key plot point in Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:19 AM on January 17, 2012


I think it important to note that one of the main problems in arguing against logging and for tourism is that logging jobs pay very well, while tourism jobs generally do not.

The situation in Tasmania is a bit different than in other countries. Logging jobs may pay well but employ relatively few people. Tourism on the other hand employs tens of thousands and stimulates the economy in ways logging doesn't. Plus we have a national minimum wage of $15ph + nationalised healthcare and employer subsidised pension plans so even tourism jobs are reasonably well paid.

Tourism is a far more sustainable employer than resource extraction and negative environmental exploitation. For example, years ago the government wanted to dam the Franklin River, saying they needed the hydro power to create jobs (damming wilderness rivers and logging wilderness forests are a correlated environmental/industry issue in Tas). There was a huge international protest, a federal election was won on the issue and the river was saved in 1983. At the mouth of the river was a little fishing village called Strahan (which is at, like, the end of the earth). Had the dam been built the fishing industry would have collapsed and the town all but abandoned. What's Strahan like today? It's an incredibly prosperous tourism destination with over 150,000 visitors each year bringing in tens of millions of dollars per annum.
posted by Kerasia at 2:00 PM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


doesn't she also need provisions? ... If the logging company has the legal right to clear the land, then surely they also have the legal right to eject the ground support crew.

She has a ground crew. And that ground crew will be very well versed in getting around any loggers that try to eject them. But the loggers (the state owned Forestry Tasmania) won't, not yet. They know that arrests will cause a bigger furore and greater publicity for the cause of forest protection. They also know that as soon as the support crew is arrested, others will take their place. Forest protesting is almost a right of passage for young Tasmanians and other Australians.

The central issue with this protest is that both the State and Federal governments have promised a moratorium on logging this extended area of old-growth forest, but they have been slack implementing it. While they are slacking, Forestry Tasmania is malevolently road-building in the area with the aim of destroying the values that make conserving the forests worthwhile.
posted by Kerasia at 2:11 PM on January 17, 2012


I'm appalled that old-growth forests are still cut anywhere, but it's just too lucrative to have all that timber on the hoof just standing around looking stupid. There's just a small percentage of primary forest left around the world, and still we've just got to cut the shit out of it.

See also:

BC

Borneo

(among too many others)
posted by Red Loop at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2012


Gillard defends new forest deal
posted by homunculus at 5:20 PM on January 17, 2012


I still remember when Julia Hill did this for 738 days. Good luck Miranda.

Julia Hill was my idol when I was a teenager (when I was less cranky and cynical). I love seeing this sort of thing again.
posted by naoko at 6:08 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


A guest post on Miranda's blog of photos by Rob Blakers showing what's at stake.
posted by rory at 6:45 AM on January 22, 2012


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