Saturday, October 06, 2007

Environmental Outrage Down Under - 200 000 hectares of native forest doomed by industrial insanity

In case you've missed it, one of the world's last bastions of exquisite ancient ecosystems - Tasmania - has been in a state of virtual civil war which has finally spread to the mainland and is going global even as you read this.

It is a bitter war between citizenry, astroturf lobby groups paid by the logging industry, and both major political parties who - at state and federal level - have set aside their differences to support Gunns - Tasmania's largest landholder, and a logging powerhouse responsible for around 5 million tonnes of export woodchips each year, largely from native forests.

All due process went out the window, the state government skimped on detail and rushed through legislation, the federal government was seemingly backed into a corner and yielded with a whimper. All so that the world's largest pulp mill, turning 4 million tonnes of forest into one million tonnes of paper ingredients and more than ten million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, could be built in a totally unsuitable valley and dump 70 million litres of effluent A DAY into an ocean rich in seals, penguins, and a diversity of flora and fauna.

Please - if you are concerned about climate change, if you are concerned about biodiversity, if you are concerned about forests, if you are concerned about corporations destroying every last natural inch of the planet for no good reason - please visit this campaign website. Get informed, show your support, consider ways in which you might be part of the global difference needed to halt this project now that it has been rubber-stamped at all levels of government.

It is a seriously off-kilter project. A majority of Tasmanians oppose it, a recent poll showed that over 83% of Australians don't trust the recently announced federal approval, and all avenues of resistance are now going to require determination, support, and creative activism.

I was feeling somewhat guilty about finally emptying my pockets of any crumbs of hope that Peter Garrett - formerly the legendary singer of Midnight Oil, now the increasingly debilitating shadow environment minister - might suddenly emerge from a phone box wearing a cape made of organic hemp with a huge green 'S' on his chest. But then he further clarified his position.

Mr Garrett argued yesterday that the tracts of old-growth forest that will supply the mill were already earmarked for logging under the Regional Forest Agreement.

"One of the policy goals for using the existing forest identified for that purpose is to add value to it.

"I prefer to see value added — so long as the environment is properly protected — rather than seeing woodchips sailing out to sea," he said.

Now, disgusting as it is people do throw around Hitler and Stalin analogies like so much confetti at a wedding (between all levels of government and a select group of well-subsidised private interests). I hate this trend as it generally discredits thoroughly justified anger and revulsion. So without specifying a context, let me just say that this comment from Garrett makes me think of a situation where somebody might endorse killing somebody and melting down their gold fillings, rather than just killing them. The viable option of protecting life where it exists seems preferable to all scenarios apparently on offer, yet all those with responsibility to proclaim as much seem far too scared to do so.

So weak are opportunities for public representation in the supposed houses of democracy, Greens leader Senator Bob Brown is repeatedly forced to personally fund legal challenges to government environmental actions in court. The Greens are drawing closer to lodging a formal legal challenge on the basis of Malcolm Turnbull's conditional approval being legally inoperable within the ambit of the EPBC Act by which he is reluctantly empowered. Bob Brown explains,
“My reading of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act section 132 (indicates) the minister has not acted within the law,“ Senator Brown said.

“We will have our barristers look at that and they are as we speak,” he said.

“We warned before he made the approval he should act within the law.”

It is an Akira situation - the beast of inequity is growing like a snowballing lump of departmental pr masturbation, environmental catastrophe, and corporate cancer but there is an overwhelming certainty that it must collapse under the weight of its own illegitimacy. It's not going to break down on its own though, it's going to need a lot of help from some unlikely places.

Please - if you're an eco-warrior, get involved and mobilize anyway that you can think to.

Check out Tasmanian Times for breaking news, commentary and background,
hit my website and check out 'Tasmania' in the category cluster,
go to the campaign site at TAP and see where you as an international citizen might be able to get involved in derailing this monster,
learn a whole lot more at Chris Lang's definitive site for anybody concerned about industrial forest operations globally,
and check out Bank Track, where they're leading the global charge to cut off financial lines of supply for the project.

Sorry to get all desperate on you, but this campaign desperately needs support. It's asymmetrical warfare, but it's been that way all along and even with full government sanction the tide has been slowly turning against this insane project for months now. Among the next steps, it is likely that direct action followed by mass arrests and destructive civil lawsuits against protesters will follow, as this has been the form of both Gunns and the Tasmanian government so far.

Please don't just flip past this if you're at all eco-minded. Now is the time for an international wave to build against this over-riding of public interest. Like the Franklin Dam and the pulp mill project before this, this project can be stopped but only by awareness, outcry, and action.