Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 40 & 41
I tried to block out the thought as soon as it entered my mind. I didn’t want to think about it. But it kept creeping back to me. I imagined that one day someone else would be sleeping in this tree. Not like I have been every night for the past six weeks, looking out across the mist covered mountains and the Tyenna Valley. No, not out here in the middle of this forest. But in this tree non-the-less; after it has been hacked into pieces, shipped across the world to China and back, sold at a Harvey Norman store as a “Tasmanian Oak” bed, finally ending up in the bedroom of someone out there who lays down to sleep, perhaps unknowingly, in The Observer Tree. No, I don’t want to think about that, it is too horrible.
I remember when I first walked into a Harvey Norman store with new eyes, full of a new found awareness of where each table, chair and bedframe had come from. In July 2011 Markets for Change (MFC) released a report entitled No Harvey No. It mapped out the chain of custody of native forests logged in Tasmania, Victoria and WA, as it is shipped to China, made into furniture and shipped back to Australia. It took a year for MFC to track the complicated journey that the timber takes once it is taken from our forests. For example, one chain of custody involves Chinese company E-JEYIK which buys the wood from Auswest, Britton Timber, and Gunns Ltd, turns it into furniture sends it to wholesaler Dixie Cummings, who then sells it on to Harvey Norman.
“Many of these retailers like Harvey Norman have very large advertising budgets. Every time their advertising lead to the sale of a timber product from a native forest it directly contributes to the logging of these forests. Yet many companies such as Harvey Norman, have no publicly available procurement policies” It states in the MFC report.
This is why I was walking through a Harvey Norman store, looking in detail at each label. No, I wasn’t looking to buy a new bed; I just wanted to see for myself. And there it was “Tasmanian Oak” written on labels on beds, tables, cabinets. I ran my hand along the top of a table. Taking in each grove, each marking in the wood. It suddenly occurred to me that anyone of these could be Front Sit. In the past I had imagined trees I’d come to love, being split into a million pieces, turned into woodchips, spread in a million directs, lost amongst tiny pieces of other trees, other forests. Finally ending up scattered across the globe, as tiny specs in a piece of paper in America, a tissue in Japan, cardboard packaging in France, some toilet paper in China. It was almost like scattering the ashes of a loved one into the wind, watching them blow away. But as I stood in front of this solid table, it somehow made the heart ache feel more real. The reality that an Australian family out there somewhere might be eating their dinner off the corpse of Front Sit tonight. I gently touched each table, each bed, the back of each chair. “Victorian Ash,” “wormy chestnut” and “Tasmanian oak” – imagining the trees, the forests from which they had come. Taking a moment to honour the life that they had been, because I figured that whoever bought them would never know the truth.
The sadness I felt inside the store gave way to other emotions. For the first time in a long time I felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement for the forest campaign. I had just about had it with the forest negotiations going nowhere and the government bowing down to companies instead of listening to its constituency. I just didn’t know what to do or how to change things. I really wanted to see these forests saved but I was out of ideas and I just felt like we were getting nowhere. And then it happened. If this was a cartoon the No Harvey No report would be like a light bulb suddenly appearing above my head! Armed with the new realisation that the government was not the only ones that controlled the fate of the forests and not the only ones who could change it, I couldn’t wait to start putting the heat on Harvey Norman, and seeing if we could get Gerry to change their procurement policy. If Harvey Norman stopped sourcing wood from Tasmania and other native forests, then that would have a major impact on the industry. Adding the extra pressure needed to force the whole forest industry to change.
Like MFC said in their report: “As Australia’s largest retailer of furniture and electronics in Australia, Harvey Norman, its management and its shareholders have a special responsibility to source products in an environmentally responsible way.”
Since the campaign was launched less than a year ago, there have been loads of actions right across the country and even across the world, targeting Harvey. Yet, the company hasn’t changed their policies. I guess we have to keep at it!! Every time someone walks into a Harvey Norman store and asks about the policies, every time their company name is mentioned in the media in relation to forest destruction, every banner drop, every poster, every e-petition: they add up and bit by bit they no doubt worry Gerry Harvey, that his brand name is being damaged. His brand name is now associated with forest destruction. And eventually, if we keep this pressure up, he will have no choice but to listen to the people and change his policies.
Recently Get Up! had a campaign where everyone could take a copy of the petition that was signed by nearly 50,000 people, and hand it directly to the manager or franchisee at your local store. I went along with my Mum to her local store in Capalaba, Queensland. As soon as we took out the petition the manager saw it out of the corner of her eye and she knew what it was straight away…it was quiet clear that she had been waiting and expecting this moment. Possibly we weren’t the only ones dropping the message into that store. The fact that she knew all about it was an inspiring sign. It shows that the company is definitely feeling the pressure.
I’d like to say to Gerry Harvey: Despite what the Tasmanian Government may have tried to tell you, the forest issue in Tasmania is not ‘getting sorted.’ Logging of high conservation value forests continues as rapidly as ever, fueled by companies like yours. So long as Ta Ann and you, Mr Harvey, continue to buy and sell these products made from our native forests, there will be no “peace in the forests.” And there will be no peace in the show rooms either, because more and more people are realising where these products come from. And how many people really want to sleep a bed made from the corpse of a 400 year old tree?
Check out the films below of actions targeting Harvey Norman.There’s lots of great ones choose from, so I’ve just picked a couple. I hope it inspires you to get out there or get online and take action!