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On Why a Logger Might Vote Green

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Kristen Lang argues that effective, sustainable work is the ‘forestry’ we actually need in a time of climate change and habitat loss.

I used to think I understood what National Parks were all about. It’s true, I was just a child at the time, but what I carried was the idea that not everything was for sale. I believed I lived in a community so wise about and so in awe of the natural world, so aware, as well, of the impacts human endeavour could have, it was willing to say, “Not all of this land is for us to do with as we please – some of it has to be cared for as it is”. The park rangers were there to do that job. They were the pinnacle of what I thought we might all be – caretakers, takers of care, people who believed we lived somewhere, alongside and as part of the same world as all this other life, that was well worth revering, well worth keeping vibrant and alive. And not just so we and the generations coming after could continue to be inspired, nurtured, uplifted, enlightened (the list is long) by the world’s staggering complexity, its beauty, but so that it could itself thrive.

It turns out National Parks, like every other inch of the Earth and of the humans upon it, are, after all, vulnerable to the idea that a thing is only truly good if someone somewhere is turning a profit. I know that particular ‘god’ (economic growth, living on credit, consume, consume, consume) has been around awhile. And you’d think I’d have become accustomed to the priorities we allow it to insert in us. Of course the Parks have to pay their way, I hear someone say. Of course the right-now desires of ourselves as consumers should dictate their future. How is it, I ask myself, that I still manage to feel alarmed, even horribly astounded, by just how much our own governments, state and federal, are prepared to give up, to turn away from, to disregard, in this profit-god’s name?

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I’ll mention climate change and habitat loss in a moment, because yes, the Parks are part of a bigger story. But to spell out what I’m saying here: in Tasmania, the term ‘National Park’ is being actively, I’d say forcefully undermined. We have currently in power a Liberal government prepared to argue for multiple tiers of economic activity within Tasmania’s World Heritage areas. A government keen to criminalise protest and to override community input into decisions it would tell us are necessary for the State’s economic wellbeing. A Government keen to privatise our natural and cultural heritage. A government determined to resist further protections even when meeting the evident need for them would well serve both the standing of our community globally and our own future health and safety. The choice between protecting the takayna / Tarkine area as the unique ecosphere it is or destroying the habitats it provides in service to climate-impacting industries would, for example, seem to be no choice at all for this Liberal government – the forests are coming down.

The point to emphasise here is that there is no scenario in which the absence of the caretaker role can work for anyone.

This is horrendously evident in the impacts we are now facing as part (merely the beginning) of climate change.

It is horrendously evident, as well, in the impacts of pollution and habitat loss on the functioning of the world’s ecosystems. On the local scale, if we fund park rangers as tourism operators and not as stewards, we will lose the very thing that draws us to the Parks in the first place. Right now, there is insufficient funding for research into the rapidly changing requirements of wildfire management, or even for adequate numbers of remote-area firefighters. There is insufficient funding for protective infrastructure for already overused walks, and numbers keep increasing. There are inadequate supports, financial or regulative, for preventing unwanted impacts from invasive species (ourselves among them). There are inadequate resources even for simply monitoring the health of the ecosystems that are supposedly being preserved. If I invited you to dinner and then proceeded to use the table and all the chairs as fuel with which to cook your dinner, and if the fire was so out of control that it burnt the food, and if the roof then collapsed from the termite infestation I’d failed to even be aware of, would you come again?

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Why can we not do better at looking after our own home? The most urgently thrown-around answer to that is ‘jobs’. Food on the table. Kids in school. What has worked in the past should work again – why should good skills and knowledge go to waste? I’ve heard the cries against ‘tree-hugging vegetarians’, the cries for the rights of those who are committed to the work of clear felling forests, for example. Most of these cries come from people who also love this place they call home, who also want the best for their communities. What would they gain, these honest, respectable Tasmanians, by greening their vote? I think they’d gain many of the same things I would. They’d be saying they want a better deal. They’d be saying no-one should have to choose between putting food on the table and damaging their own home. It’s a lie that we have to make that choice. Humans are cleverer than that. They’d be saying the opportunity to move away from activities known to be contributing to humanity’s two most urgent crises – climate change and habitat loss – matters. And it does. Especially as international pressure for a response to these crises increases, as it will. They’d be saying they want the chance to apply themselves to effective, sustainable work, the kind of work their great, great grandkids might also engage in while still contributing to the health of their communities. They’d be saying they want to be proud of where they live.

Living with and as part of the world around us, our home, without rendering ourselves or the life we share the planet with vulnerable to increased fire and flood, disease, pollution, or extinction, is not a pipe dream. It’s not make-believe. It seems those in control of the status quo would like us to think it was. Yet change is possible. Internationally, change is already happening – Biden’s climate concerns are an example. Tasmanians can choose to be part of this change. We can choose, in other words, to do better – I think we’d excel at that challenge. I really do.

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A crowd of us greening our votes on May 1st would send that message.

Kristen Lang is a poet/writer based in north-west Tasmania. Earth Dwellers was published in 2021 by Giramondo Publishing. Earlier works include SkinNotes (2017) and The Weight of Light (2017).

TASMANIAN TIMES: Greens Forests Transformation Policy.

TASMANIAN TIMES: Labor’s Forests Policy.

TASMANIAN TIMES: (Liberals) Forest Industries Policy.

Source: Tasmanian Times

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