Dear Mr Heazlewood, Brand Tasmania,

I write as a seriously concerned, relatively new Tasmanian.

I came to live in Tasmania with my family largely because I believed the ‘Clean and Green’ marketing image.

We have been here long enough now to realise that this is, sadly, no more than illusion.

To the extent that I would have thought that Tasmania as a business might be seriously contravening the Trade Practices Act. I have the idea that marketing claims should be true, they should be supported by fact, rather than hype and marketing spin.

Here are my reasons . . .

The tragic fact is that much of Tasmania is not clean. I cannot accept the results of government sponsored ‘tests’ which claim that the water from our rivers is clean. The only tests I would accept must come from absolutely independent testing.

I am aware of some independent analysis of water from various locations around Tasmania that show considerable toxic chemical contamination.

DPIWE testing claims there is none.

I am well aware that governments and their bureaucracies work closely with the manufacturers of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers to set ‘safe limits’ that enable extensive use of these products. This is in the face of mounting scientific evidence that these ‘safe’ limits are way too high. They do not test for multiple exposures to a range of different chemicals. They pay no heed to recently emerging evidence that many of these chemicals have their most severe impacts at homeopathic (virtually untraceable)concentrations. They pay no heed to the endocrine disruptive consequences that most profoundly impact on children, and on future generations of children.

I have found a quite appalling level of anecdotal evidence that some people in some locations, and in some industries are suffering very severe health impacts. For example, I am informed by one analyst that the water supply in Railton should be condemned as undrinkable. That some children – from 3rd and 4th generation farming families around Sheffield – fail to produce some essential enzymes to enable effective digestion of their food.

That there has been a surge in cancer related health impacts at St Helens.

That water from a spring at Forth, much used by the locals because they thought it would be safer than the town water supply (from the Forth River catchment), is heavily contaminated by nitrates and various highly toxic chemicals (the spring is located at a point below extensive intensive vegetable growing farms).

We should not claim to be green

You only have to look into the past to know of the high levels of the toxic Contamination of the Derwent – which was so bad that it could not be denied.

What we face is not unique to Tasmania. We are not unique. Consequently we should not claim to be Green. The cumulative effect of intensive chemically dependent agriculture, along with large scale conversion of farmland and native forest into chemically dependent plantation monocultures renders the dictionary definition of the word ‘CLEAN’ inoperative.

So too do industries that discharge toxins into streams and estuaries. It is not just what winds up in our water. In many situations, these poisons go into our air as smoke or as spray drift. Further, every autumn, the forest industry generates vast quantities of smoke, generating an enormous carbon minus which short cycle plantations will never reverse.

I have spoken with many conventional farmers – and most of them readily admit that their fine looking soils are dead. All the healthy microbial life that is essential to the natural diversity of life has been killed. Their soils have become a neutral medium. Their crops only grow today because of a massive input of chemical fertilisers, and the inevitable need for pesticides.

Did you realise that most of this has evolved since WWII? That before that, almost all agriculture was organic? Now, most farmers are so conditioned to the persuasive talk of the chemical industry salesmen that they know no other way. The consequence is that farmers and their families suffer extraordinarily high rates of cancer. So too do those who work with them, the laborers and ontractors. As do the workers in the food processing plants.

The shocking reality is that the Clean Green State has the worst state of health in Australia!

Many will say this is the price we must pay for so-called progress. Some price! There is another way, but tragically, and inevitably, governments, their bureaucracies and the corporations they are supposed to regulate will almost invariably act in the corporate interest.

Yes, visually Tasmania looks nice and green – most of the time. Except notably in the Midlands, which are appallingly degraded. I find the drive from Launceston to Hobart a depressing experience. All a consequence of about 200 years of mismanagement. It could be turned around, but it would be a long and costly task.

But to me – and I am told that the original concept of the logo came from The Greens – the meaning of ‘Green’ is a complex array of philosophical attitudes and practices that are not what we see happening in Tasmania today.

A very few people here practice it in their way of thinking and their way of living. Biodiverse agriculture – free from toxic chemicals is part of it. A forest industry that works in the way of the old foresters of the past would be part of it – what we see today horrifies the old-timers who are still around.

What ‘green’ means to me is to live in harmony with nature (1080 flies in the face of nature), to recognise that everything comes from the soil. To recognise that if you have healthy soil, you have healthy animals, and that we humans who live on the plants and the animals that graze on these plants, will be healthy. It calls for respecting our land and respecting all other forms of life that this land produces. Most of what we see today flies in the face of this.

I have no doubt that Tasmania and its people could thrive if it set about becoming what the slogan implies. It could be a unique place in the world. It could prosper from producing natural, truly nutritious food, uncontaminated by agricultural chemicals. It could continue to do all it needs to do with its impressive renewable, non-polluting power supply.

It could, in time, become a model for a society of really healthy and happy people, living as one with the land.

What we must do now is take a hard and unblinkered look at where we are now – look truth in the eye. Look at the depressing realities. Ask ourselves if this is really what we want. Unless we do this, unless we put aside the government and corporate spin, unless we take back control of our future, we are destined to become what powerful global interests have in store for us.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Yours sincerely,
Paul de Burgh-Day

Paul de Burgh-Day is a farmer at Lorinna