Responding to danger

In a recent TT article entitled Slip Shift ( HERE ), I commented upon the Wilderness Society (TWS) letter and card that exhorted readers to write to their politicians and show their support for a ‘jobs-rich, 100% plantation based forestry industry’.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get a response from TWS, I published the TWS materials and my comments on them.

I advanced a case to show how TWS support for plantation forestry could easily disadvantage communities and fail to protect our forests.

I pointed out to one of their senior staffers that TWS pro-TCF mill/plantation position could easily rebound and discredit TWS in the eyes of their supporters. In response that person said ‘Thanks Mike, This is helpful. I take your point that TWS could wear the shit if we support a development that does bad things to people. GP (GreenPeace) is copping heaps in Canada at the moment for supporting industrial scale logging of the boreal in return for some fairly large new protected areas.’

So at least one TWS staffer was able to appreciate the warning and the potential risks.

L. (Les? Lillian? Len?) Richards took a more muscular approach in ‘Who’s misleading who?’ ( HERE ) and raised the issue of the amount of land lost to foreign interests as collateral damage from the uncritical support of plantations. That article went further than I had ventured, describing TWS as ‘dreamers’ and proposing that TWS was failing in its main mission – protecting our wilderness.

As if to reinforce that view, Pete Godfrey, a Tasmanian surrounded daily by forestry realities, visited the Tarkine Wilderness area, (slated for a ‘tourism road’ promoted by Forestry Tasmania and paid for by taxpayers) and took distressing photographs of the large areas being logged ( HERE ).

Also included in Pete’s piece were Google Earth images that showed the extent of the devastation at the time the satellite passed over. It could be a lot worse by now.

So we’re seeing the Tarkine being clearfelled, a forestry spruiked road is to be put through that wilderness at our expense. Many people believe that it is these things that TWS should be dealing with before supporting ‘plantation forestry’.

Governments are emboldened by the support they are getting from environmental campaigners and can easily see how to play the ‘old switcheroo’ between forests and plantations by sacrificing our farmland for ‘economic’ reasons.

Think global

Here are some quotes from the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology, Anne Petermann, who attended the World Forestry Congress that took place in Buenos Aires in October 2009 ( HERE )

In seminar after seminar I witnessed plantation-crazed maniacs posing as people deeply concerned with the well-being of our forests. Even at the Forest Restoration session the topic was not threats to the world’s forests and techniques to restore forests and their biodiversity. No, the workshop on “restoring forests” was all about growing monoculture tree plantations. (sigh.)

Nearly every session here has been first and foremost a public relations campaign aimed at drilling into the heads of all, but especially the young impressionable forestry students, that the industrial plantation forestry is our best bet for saving the forests. These forestry hucksters congratulate themselves and each other for being such good con artists. And their jargon is flawless. They have co-opted the terminology developed by social movements and environmental organizations brilliantly. Capacity building and Consultations with Indigenous Peoples, Sustainable Forestry Management, Net Zero Deforestation, Forest Restoration, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Ending Illegal Logging, Certification, Advancing Social and Ecological Values, Environmental Stewardship, Sustainability Criteria… and on and on… So beautiful, so moving. (Pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain!)

Remember that TWS description – ‘…plantation forestry’

It’s a term coined and used by the forestry industry and is a completely false description whose only possible intent is to confuse the listener/reader into imagining that plantations are somehow forests.

They are not. Forests are chaotic and biodiverse, plantations are artificially ordered monocultures.

Mark Constantine of the International Finance Corporation, listed the “Risks” of certain activities, next to a column called “mitigation.” The first item under “risks” was “unsustainable logging & biodiversity loss” The mitigation: certification and NGO partnerships. In other words, when you do unsustainable logging and destroy biodiversity, you will need to mitigate your image by getting sustainable forestry certification and partnering with an NGO like WWF.

It’s all the very essence of post-modern spin. The idea that only perceptions matter and that creating the ‘right’ perceptions is the only game worth playing.

The final session of the day is going on as I write this. It is the session on “recommendations” for the congress. As my recommendations would be in the realm of removing themselves from the planet, I thought it best to abstain from attending. If I had to hear one more talking head blather about sustainably destroying the planet, I would have lost my mind completely.

Another attendee from the same organization concluded… ( HERE )

The proposals under discussion do not make any distinction between native forests and large-scale tree monoculture, and they allow economic actors – which have historically destroyed ecosystems and expelled populations from them – to resort to standing forest appreciation mechanisms to preserve and strengthen their economic and political power to the detriment of those populations. In addition, we run the risk of allowing industrialized countries not to reduce their fossil-fuel emissions drastically and to maintain an unsustainable production and consumption model…

The World Rainforest Movement stated… ( HERE )…
It is important to stress that some of the most destructive eucalyptus plantations in Brazil are owned by the pulp and paper industry… Many of those plantations are being strongly opposed by local communities and peasant organizations in Brazil. (WRM) has over many years been compiling detailed information on the impacts of those plantations on people – on their differentiated impacts on wome and the environment as well as documenting the struggles against them.

Act local

One useful local action is to raise awareness of what’s happening and how forestry spin is creating a totally false impression of the real events around us. How our minds and senses are being professionally manipulated to cater for the interests of a few powerful conglomerates.

Instead of trying to dismiss these ideas as ‘attacks’ on environmentalists, I encourage readers to consider what’s happening to our world, who is making it happen, who is benefitting, who is controlling the agenda and who is going to end up suffering and paying for it all.

Denial, blame and anger are natural human reactions to change, particularly when it appears threatening but they are ultimately dysfunctional responses.

A better approach is a reaction of finding out more about the threats and then acting to do something useful.

Pete Godfrey’s article concludes with ‘I feel sick’.

Who wouldn’t?

We’ve been ignored by our governments, misrepresented by our media, and apparently misled by environmental organizations who many imagined were our only protection.

In essence, we have been, and are being, betrayed at just about every level.

Actions speak louder than words

From the World Forestry Congress quotes we get insights into the spin and propaganda being perpetrated by forestry interests.

We can see the effect of plantations on our local landscape and note the losses of valuable (and rare) food production land to trees.
We can see our remaining rainforests being ripped out to provide income for forestry interests regardless of how many plantations they have available.
We can see our governments giving forestry, mining and energy industries supremacy over land and resource use.
Given these, and other appalling outcomes of government bowing to corporate interests, I propose a simple challenge to TWS to use their influence with government to:-

1) Make certain that governments do not underwrite or fund the Gunns pulp mill.

2) Get a legal guarantee that if TWS supports plantations or pulp mills then our forests will be protected from forestry clear felling.

It seems to me that these two outcomes would be worthwhile and make it abundantly clear where TWS stands using actions rather than words.

Watch this space.

Mike Bolan

Mike is a complex systems consultant, change facilitator and executive/management coach.

Note. The author welcomes constructive criticism and new information that adds to our understanding of these matters.