21 Sep 2009, Comments (20)

Black Harvest

Author: Helen

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.

Clearfelling at Brown Mountain

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.

Comments (20)

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    I haven’t trusted ‘harvest’ since I read The Silence of the Lambs, as in ‘harvested the hide’. It’s also the word they use for removing donor organs from the newly dead. As a farmer’s daughter I mourn the loss of the childhood connotations.

  • Dave Bath says:

    Thanks for this Helen. While I haven’t seen this kind of burning, I can recall weeping as a young adult on revisiting some of the Otways Rainforest that I’d known well as a kid… and happened upon a large area, cleared with giant ball and chain, with many felled tree ferns lying about.

    So few Victorians understand that we have rainforest, and that it brings rain to surrounding farms, apparently by releasing volatile organics into the atmosphere that cause seeding of raindrops.

    And that picture you’ve included is simply horrifying: it should be shown to the public with the caption “DELIBERATELY LIT”

  • Helen says:

    That’s a good idea for a poster, David.

  • hannah"s dad says:

    Ah the use of words as political weapons.
    Used to be called ‘propaganda’ once.

    Nice post.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Hannah’s Dad, and thanks!
    It’s called “Spin” now. I can just imagine the PR people brainstorming a softer word for clearfelling.

  • hannah says:

    Some good examples of ‘propaganda’ [I actually prefer that word] are given in this article.
    http://newmatilda.com/2009/09/23/ferguson-speaks-fluent-denialese

  • Helen says:

    So, what do you think of this Dave?
    I’m not sure about the font. Can’t use Impact because it’s too much associated with laffs now.
    But I can’t find anything that looks very severe. This is about the most srs font I could find.

    Picture of a clearfelled and burnt coupe at Brown Mountain, Victoria

    Anyone have ideas as to how this could be improved?
    I’ve saved an A4 size version but would have to reoptimise it for print.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks for the link Hannah! But aren’t you… a… dachsund??
    (I’m pretty sure Hannah’s Dad told us that!)
    What a clever dog!

  • Dave Bath says:

    Stencil/Rubber_Stamp fonts … some with borders:
    * http://www.dafont.com/theme.php?cat=114
    * http://new.myfonts.com/tags/stencil/

    A bit cheesier, but with fonts based on fire or ice
    * http://www.dafont.com/theme.php?cat=111

    Lots of other fonts in similar places…

    And you can design your own fonts with font forge http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/ unless you are already a TeX/metafont guru

    Got a multi-layer (i.e. not flattened) PSD (Photoshop) or XCF (Gimp) version? (And if you cannot afford photoshop, go to gimp.org – the “free photoshop”, which can also handle psd files)

  • hannah's dad says:

    Oops!
    hannah is a pure bred mongrel collie/kelpie and a few other bits.[Named after Hannah Nyala.]
    Worlds best dog.
    Thats a totally objective statement of irrefutable fact.

    Nice poster.
    All criticism is nit picking.

    Remove the words at the bottom? [perhaps a tiny, gotta look carefully to see it “Victoria 2008 or Otway Ranges 2008 whenever” extreme bottom in small print.
    Minimalism is good?

    Maybe keep the line “The Brumby govt made a promise …..etc” by itself.
    Or maybe just the last line by itself.
    Or maybe just a line giving time and place…”Brown Mountain Victoria 2008″ [whatever].

    Whatever.
    The concept is powerful, because it is right.

    I read your comments at LP or somewhere else on this issue, or related, a long time ago, something to with Otway forests I think.
    You were much criticised by the pedants and those that “just don’t get it.”

    You were right then and you are right now.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks HD! And why was it that I thought Hannah was a sausage dog? You are right, the mongrel collie/kelpie is the world’s best practice, except for the mongrel collie/kelpie/rottie.

    Great suggestions both DB and HD – I’ll have a play with it when I have time!

  • JahTeh says:

    Excuse me for asking a dumb question but why after the destruction do they have to go one better and burn what’s left? If the bits and pieces were left in place at least some of the smaller native animals would find a way to survive.

  • Helen says:

    Hi J,
    Bit of a rushed reply as I’m off to work, but it’s to “replicate” “natural” “regeneration”.
    Thing is, the big, wet cool temperate rainforest of the SE doesn’t actually burn inits entirety.
    The “natural” (logging coupe burning) hot fires bring fire loving species and what does grow back is much drier. If it were left for another 500 years like what was there before it might end up again as cool temperate rainforest, but unlikely given the logging rotations, climate change and the conditions they have created.

  • JahTeh says:

    I went back over the post because the napalm bit got me and I don’t think the indigenous mosaic burning would ever have done this much damage.
    So if they did it the old way, we’d still have rainforest regenerating.

    Slightly off topic but I always wondered why they didn’t log the Huon pine before they flooded Lake Pedder, if they were so desperate for timber.

    Catalyst last night had a report on BHP-Billiton about to wipe out a wonderful species of cuttlefish in Spencer Gulf by building a de-salination plant but BHP have produced a stack of reports denying they’ll harm a single one.

    So with the logging and the mining, big business still can’t understand why the people don’t believe a word they say.

  • david h says:

    ahh this is the stuff of my nightmares 🙁 What’s really depressing though is the sad realisation that no matter which government is in charge, the loggers have so much entrenched power that nothing ever gets done about it. Every government that has ever been elected (for as long as I can remember) ends up caving in to the “forest industries”. Frankly I think its just corruption, aided and now conveniently ignored by the mainstream media to the extent that being anti-logging is immediately contextualised to mean job losses and economic decline. And still we pay homage to system, meanwhile the plunder continues unabated.

    no wonder my head hurts.

  • Lizzie says:

    Your poster is brilliant. I have sent the link to the campaigners!

    Re: “napalm like substance” – it is in fact napalm, an incendiary thickened into a gell-like substance. It sticks to things and burns, so that even sodden wet wood burns. I’m told by those who have seen it that when it lands in rivers, it floats and burns. They drop it from helicopters. The resultant fire is hot and destructive, killing the soil, the idea being that fresh seed will sprout unimpeded. Nighmare.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks Lizzie – Commenters upthread have suggested some improvements and I haven’t been able to get to the photoshop yet, but would be better with some more sinister font (from Dave B’s links) and simplifying the message at the bottom just to say this is how Brumby keeps his promise to Victoria.

    Strange, the original image has disappeared from the post, the HTML is still there and the admin options haven’t changed… very peculiar. (No, JT, I haven’t been at the Bombay Sapphire!) I’ll see if it’s still happening tomorrow and re-upload it if it’s still not appearing.

  • Jilla says:

    Wanna know why they do this total obliteration thing to forests? It’s a land grab by the govt and logging industry. (I also hate that word ‘timber’ for the same reasons as we hate the word ‘harvest’).

    This was beautiful diverse original forests making clouds and purifying water and sheltering wildlife. But what a waste when it could be converted to plantations for the woodchip industry! They call it regeneration but they destroy the original vegetation over public land and bung in a single species comemrcial tree crop. They need to do the full anihilation thing to make sure no pesky natural stuff tries to come back – like ferns and blanket leaf and vines and …

    Also – let me know if you want a copy of that photo for mucking about with. I have a high res version.

  • Jilla says:

    Wanna know why they do this total obliteration thing to forests? It’s a land grab by the govt and logging industry. (I also hate that word ‘timber’ for the same reasons as we hate the word ‘harvest’).

    This was beautiful diverse original forests making clouds and purifying water and sheltering wildlife. But what a waste when it could be converted to plantations for the woodchip industry! They call it regeneration but they destroy the original vegetation over public land and bung in a single species comemrcial tree crop. They need to do the full anihilation thing to make sure no pesky natural stuff tries to come back – like ferns and blanket leaf and vines and …

    Also – let me know if you want a copy of that photo for mucking about with. I have a high res version.

  • Helen says:

    Andrew Darby in the AGE/National Times
    Forestry Tasmania is the state agency that manages timber on Tasmania’s public land. It’s long been the butt of green criticism and its own penchant for Orwellian language doesn’t help. (Old growth trees are never “logged”, they are always “harvested”).

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