Tag: pulp mill

Paying the price of ignoring climate change

Paying the price of ignoring climate change

During the pulp mill campaign I regularly wrote letters to editors of both the national and local media, as well as commenting on as many online articles and blogs as I was able to find. Missives to editors have been much less frequent in recent months and years, but the whole climate issue has inspired me to write more often. My latest efforts though have failed to make it into print. Possibly because they touch on a movement that is gathering momentum around the world – Extinction rebellion, or XR.

Whatever the reason I decided it was time they saw the light of day, and had a potential audience and it occurred to me this blog is the perfect platform, so here they are:

“Every day there are media reports of extreme climactic events around the world. Many of them occur in Australia. Summer has barely begun yet already we’ve experienced shocking bushfires that have destroyed homes, businesses, livestock and food crops. We’ve got the worst drought on record, while elsewhere in the country there’s flooding. Rivers are dry, communities have run out of water, unique wildlife species are either extinct, or on the brink of being so. To say this is ‘normal’ is ridiculous, yet Mr Morrison refuses to acknowledge the risks, or accept two of the major contributors to the climate emergency are mining and forestry. Instead he rails against and vilifies those pointing out the danger of climate inaction in the only means left to them: displays of public, peaceful and creative protests. Scientists from every discipline are speaking out and emphasising the danger of climate inaction, strongly criticising the Morrison government’s wilful refusal to act.

So what will it take for this government to accept reality?  How many more homes must be lost to the flames of uncontrollable bushfires? How many crops must be ruined? How many thousands of sheep, cattle, and horses, must be culled? Or forests and wilderness destroyed? Or the health, wellbeing and safety of Australians be compromised and threatened, to satisfy the Morrison government’s love affair with a coal industry whose day is over.”

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“The Morrison government has a one seat majority. This suggests almost half the country didn’t vote for it, and doesn’t necessarily support it. Therefore however much Mr Morrison, and others in his government, continue to dismiss the need to take urgent action on climate change, he shouldn’t be surprised that half the population disagrees with him, or that increasing numbers of Australians are choosing to express their disagreement and frustration in the only means left to them: civil disobedience. We live in a democracy. Civil disobedience and the right to protest peacefully are our democratic right. It’s something Mr Morrison would do well to remember. Democracy is a two-way contract after all, and threatening to remove the right to peacefully protest about government inaction on an issue universally recognised as the greatest threat to the planet, is a disgraceful and unacceptable response from a prime minister.

Thousands of scientists across the discipline have now demanded the world’s leaders take action on climate. For any government to ignore this advice now borders on criminal negligence and shameful irresponsibility. Not only does a refusal to act risk serious social division or collapse, as well as economic ruin for thousands of people, it risks leaving successive  generations of Australians facing ever more extreme droughts, floods and bushfires, and an increasingly uncertain and uncomfortable future.

What price the lucky country then?”

#climateemergency

 

 

Greed and the Gorge

My involvement in the community-led campaign opposing failed timber company Gunns Limited’s pulp mill, planned for Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, was the reason for establishing this website, and blog, in the first place. In addition to hopefully attracting some more writing work, (hello, any editors out there reading this!) my aim was to prepare the ground for a book about the pulp mill campaign. Writing the book has proved slow going though, not least because this being Tasmania, there’s always a need to campaign about some inappropriate and controversial development somebody wants to build. And now the activism gene has been activated there’s no shortage of environmental and social justice issues and campaigns to be fired up about. By default I also seem to have become the go to person when it comes to being involved in Tasmanian actions, or at least helping to spread the word.

As previously mentioned there are already controversial proposals to have cable cars up Mt Wellington/kunyani, mining and logging threatening the Tarkine/takayna, and an east coast threatened by the massive Dolphin Sands resort, as well as an expansion of the salmon farming industry.

These projects do make me wonder about the intelligence of those in all levels of government. Too many appear unable to recognise the priceless value of Tasmania’s natural environment, and that its attraction to the thousands who come here to visit, is precisely because it’s relatively unspoiled and undeveloped, and wild. The opportunity to experience nature in the raw is what draws people here. Tasmania’s point of difference is the wilderness, history, boutique food and craft industries, a vibrant and growing arts culture, and an enviable sense of community in towns and cities free of skyscrapers, and where people can breathe freely, and aren’t obliged to live or work 15 floors up.
It’s the ruggedness of the wilderness, the forests, and the unique wildlife that draw people to Tasmania’s shores. So it’s been both disappointing and frustrating to reflect that a good chunk of my year so far has been the need – yet again – to take up arms, (metaphorically speaking) on behalf of one of these special places.

This time it’s Launceston’s Cataract Gorge that is under siege. Two developers with very different agendas, but with equally inappropriate and intrusive projects want a piece of it. Both will threaten the peace, tranquillity and integrity of an iconic public space that is deeply valued and loved, not just by the locals but also by the thousands who visit it every year from all around the world. Few people are not blown away by the fact such an amazing and accessible place exists in the middle of a city. So it’s not at all surprising tourism publications and surveys consistently rate the Gorge as one of the top three must-see Tasmanian destinations.


No wonder then a significant number of people in the community are passionately opposed to the idea of 24 eight-seater gondolas circling the comparatively compact Gorge area 24/7. Given they will be fully enclosed and see-through glassed gondolas, whose design removes any possibility of privacy for people below walking, swimming or relaxing on the ground, it’s unsurprising there’s a mixture of concern and outrage such a development could be approved by the council.

Also of concern is the already-approved 39 metre Gorge Hotel, which will dominate Launceston’s skyline, and overshadow the Gorge from its controversial central location. One that is already challenged by increased traffic flow, and potential structural instability given the site’s proximity to the river.

Two campaigns that are arguably driven by greed and ambition on the part of developers, and with little consideration for the broader community who will be obliged to live with them. Neither seem to have any genuine appreciation and understanding of Tasmania’s unique place in a world where people can pause, catch their breath, and reconnect to a slower pace of life in a more natural world free from noise, crowds, and the tyranny of technology.
But while the writing pace on the book has slowed, it certainly hasn’t stopped. I’m just having to revise the timeline for finishing it.

Finally underway

So much for the best laid plans, and all that optimism post last year’s writers’ festival. While the book writing hasn’t exactly gone according to script, a serious start has been made and I can say, with hand firmly on heart, it is underway even if it’s not progressed as far as I both anticipated and intended.

The bread-and-butter writing obviously takes precedence, and there are other commitments – some might say distractions – in life, like federal elections for example, which despite all the predictions and polls, (and the efforts of those on the left side of the political divide) saw the Coalition returned to government. Before you ask, no, I’m not a fan. Not at all. If the pulp mill campaign did nothing else it made me far more politically aware, and left me totally disgusted with both the major parties in the context of the pulp mill project, and Labor and the Liberals’ continued irrational support for it.

During those years I found my tribe in the Greens, and they remain my tribe, along with other organisations and groups whose focus leans towards environmental protection, animal welfare, social justice and conservation. The down side to the ever-increasing need to support all the campaigns being run by these groups, and that require championing, is the time it takes. Ensuring Queensland’s Adani coalmine is ditched, Tasmania’s Tarkine/takayna is protected, and inappropriate developments are not approved at Cambria Green or Lake Malbena, or – most recently – in Launceston’s Cataract Gorge are all too often distractions from the main game, and I realise I’m guilty at failing both to ignore them, or say ‘No’ to requests for assistance in promoting them.

Most recently it’s the invitation, (persuasion more like) to be involved in the committee formed to oppose the Gorge Skyway proposal that has dominated a bit, despite my best efforts to distance myself a little. Fingers crossed, this will not be a lengthy fight to keep the Gorge free of the proposed 24, 8-seater see-through glass gondolas circling this unique and special place that was gifted to the people of Launceston over 100 years ago, and is therefore managed by the Council.


As I said in my recent letter to the Examiner – that was strangely published two weeks in a row:
“Numerous surveys, polls and tourism publications nominate the Cataract Gorge as Launceston’s ‘number-one tourist attraction’. And rightly so, consistently voting a visit to the Gorge as among the top three places to go in Tasmania.  Also consistent is why it rates so highly: the Gorge’s relatively unspoiled and natural environment. Yes, there has been some relatively low-key development in the Gorge since European settlement, so to describe it as ‘pristine’ isn’t exactly true either. But times change, and so do perceptions and values, and it’s pretty clear from speaking with some of those Gorge visitors, that it’s these all-too-rare unspoiled and natural features that are what people really appreciate and enjoy. They’re blown away that we have such a stunning and accessible natural public space that combines park, garden, wilderness, swimming area, Indigenous heritage, and playground, all together in the middle of a city. People value the fact the Gorge doesn’t resemble an overcrowded theme park, and that it’s not been over-developed. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a unique point of difference, and it would be unwise to ignore it. Not all development is good – and the idea of multiple gondolas coming from every which way, that must inevitably intrude into the peace, privacy and serenity of the Gorge experience not only risks causing unnecessary social division, it also risks coming at an enormous economic cost for our community if all those tourists that currently come to experience that unique natural experience choose to bypass Launceston, and go elsewhere.”


Here’s hoping this will prove to be a short-lived and successful campaign so my attention can soon return to my own writing project, before ongoing commitments to next year’s Tamar Valley Writers’ Festival start to seriously take over.
#handsoffourgorge

We won!

This post should have been written weeks ago, and if I had the know-how should also be accompanied with lots of bells, whistles, balloons and other such illustrations that indicate celebrations are in order. Because they are. Big time. The pulp mill campaign is over. Finished. Done and dusted. And the community won. How amazing is that?
In the end it ended with a barely discernible whimper, and I certainly had the impression local media chose to report it reluctantly and with some resentment. As long-standing and well recognised champions of the project it was a news item that rankled with our local media barons but one they were obliged to print, while hoping few would notice if the details were buried somewhere at the bottom of Page 9.
Like others I’d been counting down the days to 30 August 2017, the date the pulp mill permits expired, my fingers crossed against any announcement by the state government they were to be extended. Again. A quiet check during July confirmed any extension would have to be tabled in parliament, and there was no time to do this before the expiry date, nor was it even being spoken about by the pulp mill’s Liberal and Labor’s parliamentary cheerleaders.
A further check with KordaMentha – Gunns’ administrators – confirmed there was still little interest from investors in buying the site, (with or without the permits), but after so many years we remained reluctant to pop those champagne corks. And then towards the end of October came the phone call that confirmed it was really over, and we really had won: KordaMentha had surrendered the permits. The government confirmed there was no intention to renew them, but stopped short of agreeing to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act, that atrocious piece of legislation largely drafted by Gunns’ own lawyers in 2007, that denied the right to challenge the mill’s impacts on an individual’s health, way of life, wellbeing, or continued business viability should they be in any way negative or damaging.
Instead, so I’ve since been advised, the Act has joined around 500 other pieces of redundant, and arguably contentious, biased, or poorly drafted legislation currently gathering dust on Parliament House shelves until a government with a spine is prepared to wield the necessary new broom.
So celebrations thus far have been subdued and muted, but not for long. Together with so many others I believe the community deserves A Party, a serious celebration of our success in what has been a David and Goliath situation – and a victory that may help motivate and inspire other communities who are facing similar threats from powerful corporate companies – that it is possible to win against seemingly impossible odds.
The Party will be soon, and I have every intention of enjoying it to the max!