Tasmanian Times


A culture is no better than its woods – WH Auden

*Pic: Christo Baars

First published August 6

It’s good to see an external analysis of the Devil face tumour issue because it is impossible for it to be investigated in Tasmania.

It has always been obvious that the DFTD – the acronym in itself suggests an attempt to categorise the disease as some kind of inevitable auto-immune self-destructive mechanism that somehow arrived from outer space – was the result of human intervention.

And it has always been obvious that the Devil face tumour was the result of human intervention caused by forestry industry practices, just as it has always been obvious that the close collaboration between corporate forestry interests and Tasmanian governments has worked hand in glove to obfuscate, hide and cover the underlying causes of the disease.

Diseases such as this do not suddenly occur serendipitously after millennia, to be explained away as the result of inherent genetic tendency. This doesn’t reflect some kind of global catastrophe which wiped out the dinosaurs, but is entirely local in its causes.

The focus of government has always been to create a public perception that they are ‘seen to be demonstrating concern by doing something’, when in fact what they are doing is purely a public relations exercise.

It is noteworthy within this context that the forestry industry targets locations for clearfelling which are known habitats of rare and threatened species, well demonstrated by the determination to log the Wielangta native forest, and even having legislation changed in relation to the protection of wildlife so that the logging could not be challenged under the law.

Anyone who has ever been involved in any way in questioning the Tasmanian forestry industry’s practices and lack of accountability knows full well the exhausting and negative impact on their lives. The Gunns 20 epitomise that, as do some remarkable whistle blowers over a long period of time and a whole host of opponents of Gunns’ pulp mill.

The Tasmanian forestry industry is beyond any accountability for anything it does, from wrecking whole ecosystems, destroying water catchments and the very land itself. We have no idea how many interdependent and diverse forms of life – plant, animal, insect – have been driven to extinction by the current iteration of the Tasmanian forestry industry’s clearfelling and sterilisation burn carnage.

The cost of the social, economic and environmental vandalism of MIS forestry, large-scale monocultural pulpwood plantations and clearfelling practices has been borne by everyone not connected to the forestry industry, and by the very foundations of nature itself, wrecked beyond repair, transformed into waste, the lungs which convert carbon dioxide into clean air torn to shreds for nothing except the wealth and self-serving of a few and the self-serving political power of a few.

The ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections stunningly reminded us that Braddon, a location in Tasmania where the forestry industry has had a huge impact, is one of the two or three most seriously disadvantaged electorates in Australia in terms of household income and educational qualifications.

Look at other places in Tasmania where the forestry industry has a large impact on the landscape and the poverty is repeated. Just as the current forestry industry is a wrecking ball across water and land resources and everything else it touches, so too is it accompanied with human poverty and deprivation, people paying all the costs, while the profits disappear elsewhere, and all is diminished.

W.H. Auden wrote aptly and presciently about Tasmania, and places similar, like Indonesia and Borneo, where ecosystems which produce clean air are being replaced by oil palm plantations, when he said that ‘A culture is no better than its woods’ …

‘A well-kempt forest begs Our Lady’s grace;
Someone is not disgusted, or at least
Is laying bets upon the human race
Retaining enough decency to last;
The trees encountered on a country stroll
Reveal a lot about a country’s soul.
A small grove massacred to the last ash,
An oak with heart-rot, give away the show:
This great society is going to smash;
They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
How much they cost each other and the gods.
A culture is no better than its woods.’

Tasmanian Devils lived for thousands of years in a clean environment. For some reason which defies all sense Tasmanians see the disease afflicting them as some kind of siloed event. They’ve forgotten, or never knew, why miners took canaries with them …

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

Tasmanian devil cancer: human intervention the likely cause … ? Download the paper HERE …

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Brenda Rosser

    August 11, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    Ms Brenda Rosser of … Wynyard asked the following questions:-

    1) Are Councillors and Council staff aware of the extensive archive of stories of pesticide contamination in drinking water across the whole state of Tasmania? This can be found at http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/tascleanwaternetwork. I draw Council’s attention to the incidents detailed relating to extensive contamination of creeks and rainwater tanks at Wynyard. Studies were done at Big Creek in the Wynyard municipality that show that after every incident of aerial spraying, the creeks were contaminated for up to 18 months.
    “Acceptable” legal limits were breached. Council have already been notified that this pesticide drift extends to residential rainwater tanks.

    2) Given these carefully referenced and validated proofs of contamination that show conclusively that the existing aerial and ground spraying codes of practice are being breached, I ask the following: “What is Council going to do to address this endangerment to public health?”

    21 JULY 2003


  2. Brenda Rosser

    August 11, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    The environmental catastrophe in the Braddon electorate is still playing out.

    The very act of replacing the native forest with these quick growing monocultures has created an extreme fire risk. The rainforest around the creeks and streams is exposed after the initial clear-felling of the forest and again and again with each industrial clear cut. The industry does not manage these tree crops to reduce fire risk, and the Tasmanian Fire Service is quite happy to allow burn-offs to occur in a manner completely counter to its own fire risk assessments. Huge piles of debris are now left on the ground 50 metres (or less) away from houses. Any ounce of Braddon’s economic viability will be gone when the predictable mega fire occurs.

  3. William Boeder

    August 6, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you Peter Henning, for your fulsome article of fact. There are a great many Tasmanians that had ever been pleased with, and have been influenced by, your unique style of presenting facts.

  4. spikey

    August 5, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    symptomatic of the contagious disease that is corporate controlled government and science

    the disparity between ‘forestry science’ and science is akin to scientology, the departments involved have the credibility of L. Ron Hubbard

    this disease has spread alarmingly around the state, country and world in my lifetime

    i’m still laughing in a very pained manner, about quoll declines being put down to global warmings warm wet events, with direct and indirect forestry effects being found insignificant

    greasy fish and chip scientists and greasy fish and chip salesmen deserve complete contempt

  5. Ted Mead

    August 5, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Hear! hear! Peter …

    “We have no idea how many interdependent and diverse forms of life – plant, animal, insect – have been driven to extinction by the current iteration of the Tasmanian forestry industry’s clearfelling and sterilisation burn carnage”.

    Most clueless FT disciples live with the belief that if it is not visible to the naked eye then it seemingly doesn’t exist.

    FT/STT’s foresters, botanists, entomologists and conservation representatives have been brainwashed into believing that obliterating the landscape through clearfell and fire, then poisoning the soil, water and regrowth has no long-term impact upon any form of biota regardless of its size or symbiotic relationship.

    Fools’ paradise!

    #9 … Geoffrey, you should have known, obscene and verbose George was going to spout his venom anywhere there was destined to be opposition to the Forestry industry. He is a true ambassador for redneckism in this state, and I am deeply content to see you have finally written him off.

    You always know that something is a good informative read when George condemns it!

  6. Geoffrey Swan

    August 5, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    #9 … I have never held George in terribly high expectations, and I recall challenging him some time back to come up with the Forestry article he promised to write for TT, to which Editor Linz was ready to accept.

    On occasion when I have been in the same room as George I have politely said Hello.

    However, he recently showed what must be his true colours at a Huonville Town Hall public meeting, at which I was one of the presenters. I was speaking with Vica Bayley, from the Wilderness Society, also a presenter at this same meeting. Lo and behold, our friend George Harris interrupted our conversation and greeted Vica with “Hello you F…ing C…, why don’t you go F… yourself you F… C…” and much more. I don’t recall ever witnessing such a disgusting display of foul mouthed language from anyone.

    As I recall, Vica politely said “Hello to you too, George”.

    At the time I put his obscene language down to the little man syndrome. But on reflection, I am thinking this person is just angry and lost in his own forestry woes, and has perhaps not yet worked out that his much worshipped FT themselves are solely responsible for the dramatic decline in specialty timbers in this State – in which George has a vested interest.

    I feel the need to share this display of obscenity in the interests of other readers and commentators, so they can read George’s comments in that light. He has certainly fallen much further down in my estimation and I, for one, will now take his comments with a grain of salt.

  7. Pete Godfrey

    August 5, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    #7 … Geoff, there is no evidence. Old Woodworker never has been able to back up any of his claims.

    He has threatened to publish articles many times, but his puppeteers at FT (unsustainable timber tas) have not written them for him.

  8. Geoffrey Swan

    August 5, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    #2 … Another worthless comment from our friend George Harris.

    Good article, Peter Henning.

  9. Geoff Holloway

    August 5, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    #2, George Harris … If this is “an utter load of nonsense” as you maintain, where is your argument and evidence to support such a vacuous statement?

  10. Alison Bleaney

    August 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Thankyou Peter, for an excellent summary of the business of forestry in Tasmania. The truth will out.

  11. Jack Nimble

    August 5, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Re # 4, You do John, without a doubt.

    Jack Nimble.

  12. John Hawkins

    August 5, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    I wish I could write as clearly and succinctly as Peter Henning.

  13. Russell

    August 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    It’s not Roundup in the case of the Devils, Elizabeth, it’s 1080.

    Overlay maps of forestry operations, 1080 baited areas and DFTD occurrences .. and you’ll see they match up perfectly.

  14. George Harris

    August 5, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    What an utter load of nonsense …

  15. Elizabeth

    August 5, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    I spent much of my working life taking overseas tourists around Tasmania.

    Of course they all wanted to see the Devil and I sat through many presentations, either on video or by park guides, listening to all that stupidity about what ailed the devils. Later, I would explain to our visitors what really was going on – exactly what you have outlined – because it was totally obvious to me, even in the very early 2000s.

    Until the mid-1990s, seeing a squashed devil or two on the roads was sad but entirely normal – it told us there were devils out there. Then they vanished, almost overnight. Clearly, forestry – and possibly farming – practises had reached a level of toxicity that was getting the poor devils.

    How long before it gets us, too? The case against Round-up is building, is it not?

    Interesting was the reaction of the European visitors. Over there, conservation and ‘green’ practises are the norm, and every year more toxic things are banned, including Round-up. Their comments about the backwardness of the Tasmanian governmental management were pitying, to put it politely …

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