Image for The Worthiness of Trees – Reflections from an Activist

Quietly the merging light crept within.
Dawn awakens.
Wafts of floating mist drift silently through the giant fingers of eucalypt.
In peace I sit, suspended above the rainforest canopy, watching, wondering.
The forest seems to dream in content.
Only a trickling stream and the calming songs of birds are audible.
Their lucid voices, like a melodic chime, echo through the breathless air.
Beyond the distant Hartz Mountain,
The rising sun creeps above an amber sky.
Shafts of golden light splinter through the mist,
Radiating their intensity over the rainforest canopy.
Here my world is at one;
For this is wilderness, and I am immersed in its immeasurable beauty.

The above words were noted in my journal from the Farmhouse Creek protest of 1987. On that particular morning I was suspended upon a platform high above the rainforest canopy. I was there, with commitment, to protest against the imminent forestry incursions planned for the Upper Picton valley.

It was the defence of wilderness that lured me there, but as the years passed I realised that my actions in the forest over that period went profoundly deeper into my soul than I originally understood.

Spontaneous poetry from that indelible morning above the canopy was merely a glimpse of the overwhelming beauty I had immersed myself within. Although that scene will be forever impregnated into my memory, it was simply a mnemonic to a world far beyond the reach of many who have distance themselves from nature in this neo-artificial world.

All across the globe there are numerous accounts of activists standing in defence for the planets’ threatened forests. Some actions have been successful and others not so, but the notable outcome is that every individual who has stood in defence of nature has enriched their lives.

“In the end nothing will save the world’s forests other than a rekindling of our love and respect for trees. A new respect for trees is essential if we are to regain the understanding of the living world of forests, which will be essential for our survival.” - Herbert Girardet.

Even in this modern era there are still cultures that continue to dwell in the world of trees. Forest people can teach us more about harmony with the earth than the most learned of scholars. In our predominantly urban society we have adopted a different connection to the primeval land, as we presently seem to rely on some form of familiarity to grasp and absorb the essence of forest values into our lives.

For me, tangible encounters such as being in a pristine forest free from modern technology instils emotional and receptive responses, and often these encounters are almost inexpressible beyond words. Even fleeting moments in such environments can be deeply profound.

I recall a few words by Hobartian wilderness advocate Chris Sharples who describes it with simplicity …

“These extremes reinforce the importance of living life to the full knowing that one’s senses are steeped in the boundless beauty that awaits us. Experiences that show us this are priceless.”

“Trees have always had a special magic, calling us to acknowledge a deep interconnectedness. Rooted in the earth and reaching towards the sky, not only are they a connection between worlds, they unify them. Like a gesture of the hand or a hieroglyph for wholeness, they can show us everything.” - Barry Patterson

There are nebulous tales of humans who speak with trees. True or not I don’t know, though these claims can easily be dismissed by those who fail to comprehend that trees can communicate in one form or another, either within themselves or to other living things around them. I am not one who has spoken with trees, however there have been many moments when I felt a vivid and welcoming aura when I passed through or camped amidst the splendour of a forest.

Forests are undeniably our sanctuaries. There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet, and in doing so what we are ultimately doing is defoliating ourselves. For countless generations indigenous cultures have known that trees, animals, plants are offspring of the universe, and that our destinies are intertwined with all living things.

All life is connected. Trees are one of the most essential links in the web of life that hosts and bonds most creatures upon the land.

“The glorious rich, colourful, quilted covering of trees and vegetation is not there merely to feed and please us. Its presence is essential to earth as an organism. It is the first condition of all life; it is the skin of the earth.”- Richard St Barbe Baker.

So where is our holistic respect for trees and the forests these days?

In the last few centuries we have essentially mutilated two thirds of the primeval earth by despoiling much of its original forest cover. This has resulted in the mass extinction of thousands of unique plants and creatures. Many of these would be unseen to the naked eye. The loss of these is a great tragedy, and we humans have now become far poorer in mind and soul from that process. ¬

Unless more people rise to the aid of forests we will inevitably find ourselves in a spiritually bleak world where we and our children will have the lost many opportunities to extensively appreciate one of the most fascinating ingredients of nature to have ever cherished the planet.”

I am quite fortunate to have experienced a great deal of my life immersed in the wild places of earth. I also am an impassioned believer that within the sublime realm of nature lie the oracles of human happiness, knowing if one seeks to explore this infinite beauty then one can be imparted with its free and plentiful spirit.

Aware of the importance of forests to our well being, I often ¬reflect deeply on the words of John Fowles …

“ I cherish trees because of their natural correspondence with the greener, more mysterious processes of the mind - and because they seem to me the best, most revealing messengers to us from all of nature, the nearest its heart.”

Here on this bountiful island of Tasmania amidst an era when nature is under constant siege from human alienation, indifference or ignorance, the evocative forests of the Tarkine are restlessly awaiting our call to action.

We should, without hesitation, heed the cries of the earth, and reward ourselves by protecting one of the planet’s finest expressions of forest wildness.

It is a dutiful posterity we owe this world.

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How gentle is the tree.
In a world of constant struggle bedecked by technology and misunderstanding,
It offers us with open arms, peace, hope and survival
And asks of nothing in return. - Ted Mead

*Ted Mead is a staunch exponent of primeval forests and wilderness, and has been involved in direct actions since migrating to Tasmania over 35 years ago. In the process, Ted has been arrested, bailed, dragged through the courts, fined, and ultimately condemned with criminal convictions for his defence of the wild country he cherishes. While Ted believes the days of on-ground protesting are all but over, he is convinced that past direct actions by valiant protesters were catalysts for the vast nature reserves that exist throughout Tasmania today.

• Pete Godfrey in Comments: Thanks Ted, lovely photos and words. Sometimes we as a race seem to forget that we are spiritual beings experiencing physical realities. We have lost ourselves in thinking and doing, instead of just being. The beautiful forests such as the Tarkine give us a place to be Human Beings, rather than Human Doings.

• Peter Adams in Comments: Beautiful writing Ted. Straight from the heart. Thank you for all your actions over the years to help the public comprehend the importance of our forests. HERE’S a Ted Talk that confirms, through science, what you intuitively know.

• Duncan Mills in Comments: Beautiful and so so true Ted. I now reside at your erstwhile abode, as you may or not recall. I can stand under it’s soaring Blue Gums, above the Huon Estuary, looking to the East into a wall of trunks: Feeling physically, a rain of peace and serenity, drenching me from head to toe.  I have experienced what passes for modern luxuries and pleasures, but assimilating such tall vibrant forests, trancends them all. I grieve for all who cannot feel these things, they will leave this place having failed to know life. I also grieve for all that suffers because of decisions made by others who will never know these things and who of choice choose not to know.