When was it that the word “harvesting” began to creep into the debate over the logging of old growth forest in our State? I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was some time last year that I became aware that the usual suspects – the timber lobby groups and their supporters – were using the word freely to describe what’s happening away from the concealing strips of forest left on either side of the tourist roads.
The words Harvest and Harvesting are freighted with positive associations. Although on an intellectual level we know that it’s mostly about combine harvesters and pea pickers these days, they’re still words which evoke the warm glow of late summer and autumn. Haystacks with horny lads and lassies in them drinking cider at the end of a long day. Heaped cornucopias of pumpkins, squash and sheaves of corn at the altar at Harvest Festival. Pagan and Christian rituals of joy and thanks. Baskets of apples as red as the cheeks of the pickers carrying them… Baisakhi, Gawai Dayak, the Moon Festival…
As opposed to this.
A Supreme Court judge has compared images of a felled forest with a World War I battlefield before ordering a temporary ban on logging in a hotly contested part of East Gippsland.
Environmentalists claimed a historic victory after winning an injunction over logging of two zones of old-growth forest at Brown Mountain, seen as a symbolic battleground by greens and the timber industry.
The injunction will stand until a trial to test whether the logging would pose a threat to endangered species, particularly the long-footed potoroo.
Justice Jack Forrest said the case had been strengthened by photographs showing the ”apparent total obliteration” of a nearby site during logging and subsequent burning off.
”To put it bluntly, once the logging is carried out and the native habitat destroyed, then it cannot be reinstated or repaired in anything but the very, very long term,” he said.
Earlier, Justice Forrest told the court: ”I know what it was like before and I know what it was like after, and I’ve also seen pictures of the battlefields of the Somme.”
More pictures here.
In bygone days, the defenders of logging were at least honest enough to call it by that name. In South-Eastern Australia, “logging” of old growth forest means “clear felling and woodchipping”. “Clear Felling”, as practiced here, means the removal of all trees from designated areas, in mountainous regions where the soil is highly suceptible to erosion and runoff without those trees. The residue is then burned (firebombed) using a substance similar to napalm. Bulldozers, logging trucks and other machinery criss-cross the area, leaving deep ruts and compacted soil. The forest is then expected to regenerate “naturally”. The firebombing is compared to indigenous mosaic burning of the forest before European settlement.
Attempts to locate evidence of indigenous bulldozers have so far been fruitless.
No wonder the Judge saw a comparison to a war zone rather than a “harvest”. Next time you see that particular weasel word in the newspaper, in relation to Brown Mountain or any other remnants of our ancient old growth, remember that picture up there.
More background and action alert here.