Forest Paradise lost - with napalm and Compound 1080

Doug Bashford playing at work.edu
Fri Apr 30 10:04:15 EST 2004



Courage to those who speak up in Tasmania.

Paradise lost - with napalm

By RICHARD FLANAGAN 

I am writing this in our autumn, once Tasmania's most 
beautiful season. But the pure china-blue skies are 
now nicotine scummed, as the smoke from the burning 
of an old growth forest floats over Hobart in a dense 
pall and the city is lit by an eerie orange glow, an 
inescapable reminder that not far distant the total 
destruction of ancient forests­like no others in the 
world­is accelerating. 

In Tasmania, an island the size of Ireland, a land whose great
primeval forests astonished nineteenth century European explorers with
their incomparable beauty, an incomprehensible ecological tragedy is
now being played out.

Recent calls emanating from Britain to boycott Tasmanian goods 
and tourism are not going to end old growth logging. But in 
an Australian election year, when the fate of Tasmania's 
forests is emerging as a major election issue, they form 
part of the growing chorus of international condemnation 
that demonstrates to Australians that these forests are 
not just a natural resource, but globally significant wild lands.

In Tasmania, rainforest unique in the world is being 
clearfelled and then burnt with napalm. Forests of 
the tallest hardwood trees in the world, eucalyptus regnans, 
are being reduced to mud and ash. 

The monocultural tree plantations with which old growth 
forests are replaced are soaking up so much groundwater 
that rivers are drying up.  1080 poison is laid to kill 
off native animals that threaten to graze the plantation 
seedlings. The indiscriminate slaughter that results sees 
not only possums, wallabies, and kangaroos die in slow agony, 
but other species­including wombats, bettongs, and 
potaroos­killed in large numbers in spite of being 
officially protected species, some of which are rare.

The survival of extraordinary creatures such as the giant 
Tasmanian freshwater crayfish­the largest in the world­is 
now in doubt because of logging. Scientists warn that 
numerous insect species still unrecorded are disappearing 
in the conflagration. Local communities discover their 
water supplies contaminated with atrazine run off.

This is an industry driven solely by greed. It prospers 
with government support and subsidies, and it is accelerating 
its rate of destruction, so that Tasmania is now the largest 
hardwood woodchip exporter in the world.

Why is this happening? Because one company, a monopoly 
called Gunns, the largest logging company in Australia, 
is making record profits selling these forests as woodchips, 
which will in turn be made into paper and cardboard.

But the woodchippers greed now destroys not only Tamania’s 
globally significant natural heritage, but distorts its 
parliament, deforms its polity, cows its media, and stunts 
its society.

The extremely close personal relationship leading 
Tasmanian politicians enjoy with Gunns goes beyond 
the sizeable electoral donations given to both major parties, 
to a political sensibility that willingly altered the 
state's electoral system, under a Liberal-Labor deal 
in 1997, to minimise Green representation. 
It goes beyond the extensive network of corporate 
and government spin doctors; beyond the alternate buying 
and cowing of Tasmanian media, to a culture of bullying, 
cronyism and threats.

Because of the forest battle, a subtle fear has 
entered Tasmanian public life; it stifles dissent, 
avoids truth, and is conducive to the abuse of power.
 To question or to comment is to invite the possibility 
of ostracism and unemployment.

The reality, relentlessly denied with lies, is that logging 
old growth brings neither wealth nor jobs to struggling, 
impoverished rural communities.
 Most wealth made out of woodchips flows out of the state: 
less than 15% of Gunns profits stay in Tasmania. 
Tasmania remains the poorest Australian state.
 Contrary to the government's routine claim that 10,000 
jobs would be lost if old growth logging ends, John Gay, 
Gunns managing director, recently admitted only 480 
Gunns jobs were at stake.

Yet the ongoing giving away of such an extraordinary public resource
now threatens Tasmania's broader economic prospects.

Key industries in which job growth is concentrated, 
such as tourism and fine foods and wines, 
trade as much on the island's pristine image, as they do 
on the products they sell. There is growing concern 
in all these industries at the relentless damage being 
done to the Tasmania's name by images of smouldering 
forest coupes.

Since woodchipping began thirty-two years ago, Tasmanians 
have watched as one more extraordinary place after another 
of their country has been sacrificed to the woodchippers' 
insatiable greed. Beautiful places, holy places, 
lost not only to them, but forever.

Tasmanians have lived the woodchippers' deceit all their lives and
borne dumb witness to their great lie that delivers wealth to a
handful elsewhere, poverty to many of them, and death to their future.
They overwhelmingly want the practice of old growth logging ended,
Wilderness Society polling showing that 69% of Tasmanians are opposed
to the practice.

But with both major parties in Tasmania as one in their rigid support
of Gunns and old growth logging, Tasmanians cannot stop this coalition
of greed and power from within their island. Change can only be
brought about by the Australian government, and it will only act when
the issue becomes one of inescapable national shame.

Of course, it can be argued that in an ever more ubiquitous, bland
world the destruction of one more unique piece of our natural world,
while regrettable, is at times such as these small change next to the
horror of Madrid, or the tragedy of Iraq. But in the lineaments of the
struggle in a distant island it is possible to see a larger battle,
the same battle the world over, of that between truth and power.

Gunter Grass, writing of Tasmania's forests, has described their
destruction as another aspect of the same attitude that led to
bookburning by the Nazis. Could it be that in this strange time, when
all our skies appear to be darkening, it is about recognising in the
great forests of Tasmania a symbol of hope for us all?

This article was first published on The Guardian opinion 
pages on Wednesday, April 21.

>>>>        ////////////=========================mmmmmmm

The Guardian link
http://www.guardian.co.uk/australia/story/0,12070,1197324,00.html 

RAPID RESPONSE EMAIL: What do you think?
If you bounce, tuffinlindsay at hotmail.com

Friday, April 23, 2004
____________



Flanagan in the firing line ... the writer's response

www.tasmaniantimes.com

By RICHARD FLANAGAN 

THE MERCURY: FORESTS Minister Bryan Green launched a 
vitriolic attack on acclaimed Tasmanian author 
Richard Flanagan yesterday. Angered by a Flanagan report 
on Tasmanian forestry practices this week in The Guardian, 
a quality British newspaper, Mr Green called him an 
"author-turned propagandist". Using the safety of State 
Parliament, Mr Green accused Flanagan of sabotaging 
Tasmania and called on the Greens to dissociate themselves 
from him. The row is expected to re-ignite bitterness 
between the State Government and some sections of the 
Tasmanian arts community, still smarting over being 
labelled "cultural fascists" by former premier Jim Bacon. 
Writer in the firing line 

The writer's reply in full:
I am proud to come from a Tasmanian family of labourers, farmers and
teachers who over five generations helped build this island’s society.

My writings have brought the attention of the world to Tasmania as a
place of wonder and beauty. 

My article spoke positively of Tasmania and Tasmanians. It concluded
by saying the great forests of Tasmania could be a source of hope for
the world.

It spoke negatively of Gunns.

Mr Green’s comments invoke a language reminiscent of attacks on
writers in eastern Europe in the 1980s. But in attacking me Mr Green
is not defending Tasmania, he is defending Gunns and its millionaire
owners.

Tasmanians ought beware; if you care about this island and stand up to
those who are destroying this island’s natural heritage for profit, if
you take a position the evidence repeatedly shows is shared by the
majority of Tasmanians, this government will seek to destroy your
reputation, it will seek to intimidate you, and you will be made
appear an enemy of our society.

Not since the days of Bjelke Petersen’s moonlight state, have we seen
a government of such dubious intent behave with such thuggery toward
its own.

But I would urge my fellow Tasmanians to not be cowed by this bullying
and to continue to fight for what they know to be true, knowing the
world is now watching.

What the Greens reckon 

RAPID RESPONSE EMAIL: What do you think?
If you bounce, tuffinlindsay at hotmail.com

Friday, April 23, 2004

Peg Putt MHA
GREENS OPPOSITION LEADER

Thursday, 22 APRIL 2004
FLANAGAN A GREAT LIVING TASMANIAN and PATRIOT
Government Attack Targets the Messenger
The Tasmanian Greens today defended Tasmanian prize-winning author
Richard Flanagan as a patriotic Tasmanian standing up for the
protection of this State’s natural treasures, as the government
attacked him under the protection of parliamentary privilege.
Greens Opposition Leader Peg Putt MHA highlighted the culture of
bullying and intimidation surrounding forest issues in Tasmania, and
the government’s use of smear tactics to target the messenger.
Ms Putt believes today’s attack on Flanagan was an attempt to create a
diversion from the government’s parlous performance in Parliament and
the escalating problems in Health.
“Richard Flanagan is one the great living Tasmanians and his concern
is indicative of the emotions sweeping Tasmania about an industry
which has been allowed to go too far,” Ms Putt said.
“This attack by the Forests Minister is a demonstration of the culture
of bullying and intimidation around speaking out on forestry in
Tasmania and quite hypocritical from a government whose own forestry
propaganda is designed to create misleading impressions.”
“The way to stop adverse international comment on the destruction of
Tasmania’s ancient wild forests is to end the destruction.”
It is ironic that in his article Flanagan wrote:
“Because of the forest battle, a subtle fear has entered Tasmanian
public life; it stifles dissent and is conducive to the abuse of
power.  To question or to comment is to invite the possibility of
ostracism and unemployment.”


“Richard Flanagan is a Tasmanian patriot and his statements flow from
his love for this place.”
“He is a hero for speaking out in the knowledge of the attack on him
which would surely come,” Ms Putt said.

Brenda J Rosser
Tasmania, Australia
shelter at tassie.net.au



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