Category Archives: Daily Blog
World Heritage rally a great success
What an amazing turn out at the rally for World Heritage! Almost 2000 people came out to the forests of the Florentine, to show their support keeping these forests as World Heritage. It was an inspiring day and sent a strong message to the World Heritage Committee that the Tasmanian community are determined to keep our forests protected. Check out the video from the day:
Being back out in the Upper Florentine Valley was full of mixed emotions. The incredible feeling of standing amongst ancient trees, knowing that they still stand only because we fought to defend them, knowing that right now they are internationally recognised and protected as World Heritage. Yet, the frustration at having to be here again, fighting once more, less than a year after the protection of these forests, to try to keep that World Heritage protection. The Australian Government applying to the World Heritage Committee to have 74,000 hectares of the newly listed forests removed from the listing and opened up once more for logging. It was with a deep sadness that I stood there amongst those trees knowing that after such a long battle to have them protected, that they may be just months away from potentially being under threat of logging once more. But I felt something incredible standing out there too, because I was standing there with almost 2000 others, all committed to defending those forests. And I felt a spark within me, an inspiration, a knowledge of what is possible. The power that we have when we stand together. As I walked up the Gordon River Road, people bustling about everywhere, it reminded me of a feeling I’ve had right there on that road before. It reminded me of all the times that people have come out to support the blockade and stood together to make sure those trees stay standing. And I wish we didn’t have to do it again, but I know that if we have to, we can. Yes, we stopped them logging the Upper Florentine and we can do it again.
I felt privileged to stand up before those 2000 people to share my thoughts. Before getting up to speak, I was feeling nervous – as I always do before having to talk! I went into the forest, to sit with the stump of a tree, that was once a mighty giant, known as Lungs of the Land. It was an ancient eucalypt that used to house a tree sit nestled high in its branches, and stood directly in the way of Forestry Tasmania’s planned road. I spent a lot of time up in that tree sit. And I was planning to start my speech with a story about it. I sat with that tree stump and all those memories came flooding back to me. The many nights climbing up ropes into the darkness, the stars twinkling above, the dark silhouettes of sassafras leaves swaying gently in the breeze… climbing up and up and up… into the upper canopy, a whole different world to the forest below. And those memories of sitting in that tree sit and watching as the forest around me was smashed, as the road was pushed around the tree sits. Watching 400 year old trees fall to the sound of chainsaws, my tree shaking as they hit the ground. Sitting there, with that stump, letting those memories wash over me, I felt a certain strength within me. Just beyond me, on the road, I could hear the sound of 2000 people gathering to defend this forest. And below me, the stump of a tree that will always remind me of how hard we fought for this place. It will always remind me of how much we will continue to fight, how we will never give up on these forests. When I stepped out of the forest and up onto the stage, and looked out across the crowd, that feeling only amplified.
Thank you to everyone who came along to the rally, and to all of those who could not make it but were there with us in spirit. Together we will ensure these forests remain standing. And this is just the beginning. Please watch and share the video, tell your friends about this important fight to protect our World Heritage forests. And watch this space for more opportunities to get involved.
Miranda’s Blog: June 20 2013
To mark the start of the World Heritage Committee meeting at the beginning of this week, I went out to the Upper Florentine Valley, site of Camp Floz. The Upper Florentine was my home before I went up the Observer Tree in the nearby Tyenna Valley. And it will always have a special place in my heart. This was my first time going back since getting out of the tree.
After not having been there in a year and a half, I wondered if it would feel overwhelming and emotional to go back. The camp’s packed down now, while we await an outcome from the World Heritage Committee. The only time I’ve seen the road empty of camp over the past 6 years has been when police and forestry Tasmania busted through and dismantled the camp in order to proceed with logging…. an experience that was heartbreaking for all of us who tried to defend those forests. But this time, I stood there on that logging road with a new feeling…. anticipating that sometime over the next week this forest might be declared World Heritage.
Home….That feeling of knowing a place like the back of your hand. That feeling of belonging. The immediate sense of relief and comfort on arrival. That feeling of connection with a place, a tie that you know will never be broken. Returning to the Floz felt like finally going home. I walked through the forest, full of so many memories for me, every tree, every fallen log, every moss patch or sassafras grove… so beautifully familiar. It was raining, which was perfect, because I think the forest always looks it’s best in the rain! And on my walk I discovered a vast array of fungi growing amist the moss and on the sides of tree trunks. Here’s a few of the photos I took:
I went to visit some of my favourite places and my favourite trees. I went and sat with the stumps of the old tree sits – BackSit and Lungs of the Land. Once mighty giants that towered above the understorey, and whose limbs housed tree sits in which I spent many nights. During a police bust of the camp about 4 years ago those trees were met with chainsaws… A moment I will never forget.
I go back to visit those stumps and although there will always be sadness in my heart that those beautiful trees I knew so well are gone… it stirs something else in my heart too. The spirit of resistance, the strength and power of our community. For those stumps remind me that we will never give in. No matter how much they try to defeat us, no matter how many times they busted our camp and tried to log that valley, we just kept fighting. It was beautiful to see moss and fungi growing from those stumps… the cycle of life continuing.
The majority of the Upper Florentine Valley remains standing to this day because of the tireless efforts of our community to stand on the front lines at Camp Florentine and stop the machines from getting access to that valley. Out of the 15 logging coupes that were due to be logged in the Upper Florentine over 6 years ago – they only managed to fell 2 and a half. Out of the 10.5 km of road they wanted to build, they only pushed in 2km. That is something for us to be proud of.
Similarly in the nearby Tyenna Valley, an area of forest was destined to be clearfelled, when logging began on Monday December 12th 2011. On the Wednesday I climbed into a tree in the middle of the coupe and said I wouldn’t get down until the forest was protected. By the end of the week the logging ceased. the machines never returned, as I continued my tree top vigil for over 14 months. This one action became a catalyst, gathering international support and increasing momentum for the campaign.
Camp Florentine and Observer Tree are two examples out of decades worth of grassroots activism in this island state, of people fighting for protection for our precious forests. Now we all wait with nail-biting anticipation for the announcement of the World Heritage Committee…. our fingers tightly crossed for a positive outcome and a offical listing of these forests in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
As I stood there in a forest that my whole life centered around for many years…. a place that has for the past 6 years kept me with an anxiety in my heart: that at any moment it could be lost to the chainsaws. I stood there and imagined what it would be like to return and know it will never be logged….
There will be plenty more forest we need to fight for even if these areas are secured. Hundreds of thousands of verified high conservation value forest will still remain open for logging. Let’s hope we’ll soon be celebrating our new World Heritage protected forests and from the inspiration of this success we can launch our campaign forward to ensure that all of Tasmania’s precious forests get the protection they deserve.
For those in Tasmania, please join us on June 30th at the site of Camp Florentine to celebrate the strength of our community in ensuring these forests are still standing. From 12 noon, meet at the camp (20 kms West of Maydena, along Gordon River Road, on the way to Lake Pedder). Bring a picnic lunch, walking shoes and wet-weather gear. See you there!
Miranda’s Blog: March 29th 2013
“What was it like? That first moment you set foot on the ground again?” Many people have asked me this over the past few weeks, since ending my 449 day tree sit on March 7th. And to be honest, I can’t remember. I can’t remember what was going through my mind as I made that quiet descent – twirling around as the rope spun, watching the forest floor slowly get closer and closer. You know those times when there are so many thoughts that could be going through your mind, so many emotions- and because there are just too many your mind is instead quiet and uncannily empty? Strangely, one thing I do remember is the smell! As soon as I entered the understorey I was fully immersed in the scent of celery top pines- after almost a year and a half living in a cloud of eucalyptus. It smelt beautiful!!
When I set foot on the ground I clung to my rope like it would save my life. I didn’t want to let you. I descended into a media scrum. Despite how absolutely lovely and understanding they all were, it still felt a little like getting out of the tree to a pack of wolves waiting at the bottom- it was the biggest group of people I had seen at once in a very long time! The smiling face of Bob Brown welcomed me to the ground. And a hug from Jenny Weber nearly brought me to tears- after all this time working so closely together on the forest campaign, but at a distance it was so nice to see her face to face once again. I looked around me, apologetic faces of photographers looked back, as they snapped away at their cameras while knowing how strange it all must feel for me. I gave a smile and gripped the rope tighter.
“You can get out of your harness now!” Someone suggested. “uh..uh” I shook my head and kept my fingers firmly in place on the rope that had been my life-line for all those months. I did my media interview like this and still didn’t let go after the media left and the forest fell quiet. That rope was the thing that physically connected me to the tree for over a year. I didn’t want to let go- of the rope, or of my tree. Hours passed, as my support crew walked back and forth up the hill, packing up camp and taking my things to the car. I stayed at the base of the tree, connected to the rope. My last goodbye. Eventually I slowly undid my prussiks from the climb line and took a step back. The rope dangled in the air. I took a deep breath and stepped away from the tree for the first time in over 14 months. I turned around and looked into the forest around me. And without looking back, I disappeared in the undergrowth of ferns. I was shocked by my own agility. Each foot taking one step after another, over rocky ground and tree roots, the ground below me moving up and down as I crossed the steep terrain. I couldn’t believe it! I guess I owe a big thank you to the wonderful support crew who sent me up that stepping machine last winter. The daily exercises paid off and I was taking to the land like I’d never left! Great- one less hurdle to worry about. And i was relieved to do without the embarrassment of falling flat on my face like I’d envisaged.
Now that I was getting the hang of this walking thing, I started to look around me at the forest understorey. All those months I had come to know the forest so intimately, yet I had known it from only one perspective. The upper canopy is dominated by the giant eucalypts that tower above the forest floor. Down below it was a whole other world. I marveled at the tree ferns, growing much taller than me despite only progressing approximately 1-2 cm per year. I watched small wrens dart about on the ground and then disappear into a thicket of ferns. I saw a small animal, maybe an antechinus, scamper across the leaf litter and dive into a burrow between tree roots. I sat down on the ground, springy with brown leaves, twigs and a coating of moss. I looked up into the green canopy of sassafras leaves closing in above the forest. As much as I was already missing my tree top home, I felt a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the forest on ground level.
I returned to the tree and stood beside a bundle of rope that had been thrown onto a log protruding at a 45 degree angle from the ground. Perhaps this log had once been a limb of my tree and long ago plunged violently into the earth. Now it acted as a great bench right beside the tree. The rope draped across it’s rotting flesh triggered a memory. Like dejavu I instantly relived the last moments I had been here in this place. So strange that I had been right here with this tree for so long, but the last time I stood by it’s base was mid-December 2011. I reminisced about the what it had been like. The forest had been a hive of activity, climbing ropes and polypropylene ropes coiled and bundled around us. Planks of wood in an assortment of sizes carefully marked and labeled so we would able to fit the pieces of the puzzle together again up in the tree. I tried to remember how I’d felt then… anxious and excited. Full of anticipated mingled with trepidation at the uncertainty of what I had decided to embark on. Now, as those same ropes were once more coiled and bundled and walked back down the hill towards the car, it was the end of an incredible journey for me. A journey that those days of preparation and anticipation could never have prepared me for. A journey into the forest, into this ecosystem, into this campaign and into myself… in a way I could never have imagined back then.
Someone walked past me carrying a box of food “Geez, hard to believe all this stuff could fit on that tiny platform!” I followed their gaze up into the branches of my tree. It was strange to look at the pattern of these branches in reverse. From 60 meters away the platform circling the trunk right at the crown of the tree certainly did look tiny. But it had come to feel so spacious to me. There was all the space I needed. To walk around (3 steps one way and back the other, that is), to sleep, eat, bathe, watch the sunrise and talk to thousands of people around the world. It was all the space I needed. And sometimes it felt luxuriously large. At other times I felt like tearing my hair out at being confined on a 3×3 meter platform. Now, as I stood looking up, I had the whole world at my feet, but all I wanted to do was jump on that climb line again and go back up to that little platform that I call home.
I resisted the urge, despite the growing anxiety about what now lay before me. I tried not to think about life beyond the forest, it was all too overwhelming. Lying down with my head on the trees roots like a pillow I looked into the upper canopy of my tree, to branches I had watched every day for over 400 days. My anxiety was immediately comforted by the familiar movement of them as they danced against the blue sky. Although the leaves were now tiny specs from this great distance, they were the very same leaves that I knew so well. And it was like this, the weight of my head nestled against the base of the tree, that I said my final goodbye.
Over the past few weeks I’ve tried many times to write a blog to let you know what this has been like- getting down, adjusting to the world on the ground. But every time I sit down to write i don’t know what to say. It is so overwhelming- everything that has taken place and all I have thought and felt these past few months- it felt impossible to know where to start. Today I have told you the story of my feet touching the ground again, but now that I’ve started writing there are so many more stories that want to come tumbling out: of the fire, my last day in the tree, my first day in a house! So stay tuned… Keep checking this blog and in the meantime, don’t forget to take action to help protect these forests… CLICK HERE.
Miranda’s Daily Blog: March 11th 2013
It’s hard to know what to say that could possibly capture all that I have been through in these past few days. Firstly I want to say thank you so much to everyone for your ongoing support. It has been so incredible to receive so much amazing support over the 14 months I was in the tree and that has continued over these past days, helping me to get through this time.
We all know that the fight is not over. And regardless of whether I am in the tree or on the ground, my determination to protect these forests has never wavered. When I climbed to the top of that magnificent old growth tree in December 2011 I vowed to remain there until the forest is protected. I may have been forced to evacuate due to bushfire, but I am still there in spirit, and will be until these precious forests are protected. Just as I know you all have been there in spirit through out this past year and will continue to be. The job is not done and we will continue to fight until Tasmania’s breath-taking, unique forests are safe from destruction.
I am proud of what I have achieved in my time in the tree. For one thing, that forest would have been a clear fell last summer had I not climbed into the upper canopy. Now it is on it’s way to a potential World Heritage listing this June. And beyond the valley and hills that I watched over, there are so many forests right across this remarkable island that I may not have been able to see from my tree top perch, but which I never forgot. Through my action I have been able to expose to the world both the beauty of these forests and the urgent need to protect them from an insatiably destructive timber industry that is tearing the heart out of Tasmania. And the world has responded to the call. All across the globe people have taken a stand. It doesn’t mean climbing 60 meters above the ground – there are so many ways to support this campaign, adding your voice to the call for forest protection. Together we have already achieved remarkable things, including a World Heritage nomination for many of Tasmania’s most iconic forests.
I want to share with you all of the thoughts, experiences and emotions that I have been through over these days. From the moment I first saw smoke rising up through the valley, and then watching the fire spread as flames roared from tree tops and my eyes watered from smoke. From the last goodbye in the upper canopy to the moment my feet touched the ground for the first time in over a year. Then all that has followed, in the process of adjusting back to life on the ground. There are so many stories to tell and their time will come soon. Right now I am resting and recovering (as well as doing lots of media interviews!). Stay tuned to the blog, though, as those stories will be making their way to you very soon.
For now, the most important thing is to remember how critical it is to keep on fighting at this time. Right now the chainsaws are still carving their way through forests that have been nominated as World Heritage by the Australian Government. The forests of Butlers Gorge, one of Tasmania’s most significant tracts of tall eucalypt forests, are being torn apart by three separate logging operations. This industrial scale logging is destroying the homes of Tasmanian devils and spot tail quolls that were seen on amazing video taken by our remote sensor fauna cameras in the area. You can check out the footage HERE.
Please watch and share this short video about recent action by Still Wild Still Threatened to defend Butlers Gorge.
TAKE ACTION HERE
Sign the online petition and hold Minister Burke and Prime Minister Julia Gillard accountable for the destruction they are allowing in the forests they themselves have nominated for World Heritage.
Thanks again for all your support.
Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 444
From my tree top perch I have watched the sun rise over this forest hundreds of times. Yet, each day, the moment when the sun first touches the tree tops never fails to mesmerize me. Every day is different. I want to share with you just one of these many beautiful mornings. From the moment the shadows of trees begin to emerge out of the mist in the pre-dawn light, to the sun making an appearance above the mountains and casting light across the valley….
Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 424
Thank you to Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, and Peg Putt, CEO of Markets for Change who came up the tree to visit me today! Thank you for braving the 60 meter ascent into the upper canopy in order to celebrate with me in person, the remarkable milestone that we have achieved in Tasmania – the nomination of our world-class forests for World Heritage. While, of course, the fight is not over and there is more work we need to do, this is a huge step forward and great recognition for the values of these ancient forests. It was great to celebrate this moment with two very inspirational women who have spent many years of their lives dedicated to the protection of these spectacular forests. Check out the videos:
Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 421
There are so many moments in every day up here, when I stop and watch this forest around me with a sense of awe. A rainbow across the skies, the moon rising against the rich colours of the setting sun, a honeyeater perched in the branches of the tree…
Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 416
One of the most important things we must do is keep in sight the vision of what we want to achieve for a better world, and of the possibilities we strive for. And to not forget.
I look out across the forest tonight, the moon shining through the silvery leaves of the branches above me. The quiet of the forest all around, broken only by the “boo-book boo-book” of owls and the occasional rustle of nocturnal animals on the forest floor. I am reminded, as I am everyday, that this is the epitome of what this campaign is all about. It is about these ancient ecosystems being given a chance at peace. Real peace. Not peace with a subheading “durability” and a fine print declaring an end to all open public discourse. No, I mean the kind of peace that sounds like Boo-Book Owls in the night, the kind of peace that sounds like the absence of chainsaws and axewackers. The kind of peace that means that the Tasmanian Devil pups out there in their dens tonight will live another day without being crushed by the mighty weight of logging machinery.
It is up to us to remember this. It is up to us to remember that this so-called conflict is actually a simple fight for survival for these irreplaceable ecosystems.
It is up to us to remember the whole picture of these forests. Of the global scale of destruction. Of the absolute need to protect these areas before it’s too late. There is no longer room to compromise. For decades these forests have been destroyed. Year after year, at an ever-increasing rate, piece by piece the industry has carved up much of Tasmania’s landscape. Now we are left with the last remaining tracts of old growth, and a moment in history where we must choose to protect them, before it’s too late. Sadly we are 30 years too late for compromise. Now, we must act to save what is left.
It is up to us to remember that this fight must be about more than just this forest here, this tree. It has to be about the impact of the industry right across the State and, in fact, across the world.
It is up to us to remember, and to remind those who never have – or no longer do – walk through these forests, of how it truly feels to experience the eerie post-apocalyptic landscapes of the clearfells that hold the ghosts of once mighty forests. It is up to us to remind those who walk in the halls of power, whether they be politicians, industry representatives or representatives of big environment organisations. They must be reminded of what is at stake, in Tasmania and around the globe.
I say this because tonight I watch over this forest with a great sense of sadness. Sadness for having to write about a topic that is harder to write about than any other. It is harder to write about this than it is to write about the chainsaws. I don’t want to be divisive, I don’t want to criticise other people who have spent their lives trying to protect these forests. Nor do I want to be patronising and say that I know any better than anyone else about the right way to protect these forests. But I need to be honest and say that I feel sad, and that I want to just put out there, into the world, this reminder.
This week the environment groups involved in the Tasmanian forest negotiations announced that they will travel to Japan to talk to the corporate customers of the timber company Ta Ann. Vica Bayley from The Wilderness Society, and Don Henry from the Australian Conservation Foundation, will go to Japan not to tell these companies about the fact that forests like the one I am living in are still under threat from logging, and that Ta Ann are still driving such logging. No, instead, these environment group representatives will be walking in to these meetings side by side with representatives of Ta Ann. They will be there to convince Ta Ann’s corporate customers that everything is okay. Don’t worry, just go on and keep buying this wood product that is fueling the destruction of our forests. Keep on buying Ta Ann’s mis-named “eco-ply” even though it is made from the very forests that are still awaiting protection. The very forests that are coming face-to-face with the chainsaws, still.
Sadly, not one hectare of forest has been placed into formal reserves through this agreement so far. Logging continues to this day and is set to continue in world heritage value forests, with no end in sight yet. How is it that this process of trying to find so-called “peace” has lead to this? A green tick of approval for a company that has not even made any changes to their practises yet? A green tick for an industry that is still clinging onto the ongoing wholesale destruction of native forests? The only thing we have seen so far is an ever increasing propping up of outdated industry models such as clearfelling, cable logging, woodchipping – a.k.a mass scale environmental destruction.
Would you want to buy a product labeled environmentally friendly if you knew it came from the destruction of ancient forests, or would you want to know the truth? Customers deserve honesty. They deserve to know when a company really deserves a green tick and when it doesn’t. In my books, the destruction of world heritage value forests does not earn them the right to that tick.
Of course, Tasmanian forests are just one part of this story. Ta Ann do not operate in a global vacuum. We cannot just ignore Sarawak and pretend it will go away. Perhaps the industry would like to. But this is where we come in – we, the community, must speak up. We must remember the whole picture.
We can not forget about the people in Sarawak, whose forest homelands are being destroyed, whose communities are being displaced. We cannot forget that wood from these forests is sold by the very same company that is now proudly walking side by side with environment groups here in Australia.
It is our job to remember, because we cannot expect politicians, big business, corrupt companies, or even big environment groups to do it for us. The community must stand up, for the forests, and in solidarity with communities in Sarawak. We must say enough is enough: the forests need to be protected.
It is a sad day indeed when some environmentalists are willing to back up a company that is driving the logging of world heritage value forests. It is a sad day for those of us who have been working hard to keep the pressure on Ta Ann and to communicate the community’s concerns to the corporate customers. It is a real disappointment to see that work being undermined.
As soon as we take the pressure off timber companies like Ta Ann there is no incentive for them to make any real change. Once they have a green tick of approval from the environment movement, why would they need to? And that is why I believe it is absolutely critical now more than ever that we do not take the pressure off. We need to continue to remind the corporate customers of Ta Ann that the forests are still falling. If we don’t we will risk having nothing changed, and Ta Ann will get away with continuing to profit from the destruction.
Please, take a moment to sign the cyber action and remind Ta Ann’s customers that what is needed is real forest protection.
Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 408
As I looked out across the rain obscuring my view of the valley I felt overwhelmed with relief. There is only one thing on my mind – I am so happy to be alive and be here right now.
Tasmania has been on fire.
The bushfires kept a good distance from me, and I was always safe. But it is still one of those times that remind us of what is important, one of those moments of appreciating the very fact of being alive and safe.
Tasmania takes a moment to sigh with relief. A moment to appreciate that friends and family have survived. And then the loss that surrounds the bushfire affected communities begins to sink in. Communities have been torn apart by the raging fires. People have lost their homes and everything they own. Children have lost their school. I can barely begin to imagine what it must be like for those communities who must now try to rebuild their lives from the ashes.
Yet it is moments like these when the human spirit shines through and you can’t help feeling a sense of hope. I have been closely following an incredible facebook page Tassie Fires – We Can Help. Please, I encourage everyone to check it out and see if there are ways that you can help. I want to say a huge thank you to the inspiring Mel who has been running this site tirelessly since the bushfires broke out. The site is a chance for the community to connect, for people to reach out to offer assistance or ask for a hand. People have jumped up to help in all manner of ways – from providing fun activities for children, to transporting animals to safety, cooking bbq’s. Boats have beeen found to help people escape the Tasman Pennisula when the fires blocked the only exit. Donations have been collected far and wide. Children have been making gifts for other children, and books for the new school are already gathering. It is so heartwarming.
And in a state that is so often defined as “divided” the community has stood togther. People who would never have set foot in the Huon Valley Environment Centre have crossed the threshold as soon as Jenny Weber opened the doors of the centre as a donation collection point. Greenies and non-greenies have stood side-by-side : in the fire service and SES. In the BBQs and the donation runs.
And it’s not just people from Tasmania that can help – from anywhere across Australia and the world there are things you can do. So check out the facebook site by clicking HERE.
When I reflect on the past week, it feels overwhelming. But what I have been through, I know, is only a scratch on the surface of what it must have been like for so many people. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me messages of support and concern – checking that I was okay as the news of these fires made it’s way around the world.
It was last friday when it began. It was so hot here that day, and the wind was no relief as it hit the tree in hot, dry gusts. It’s the kind of day that I wake up anxious. The kind of day when I know that out there somewhere fires will burn. And they did.
Smoke billowed up from behind Mount Field; it looked as though the mountain was a volcano. At night I watched as the clouds of smoke turned orange and pink. The glow of the fire made the world look like it had turned on it’s side… like the sun was setting in the north. The fire glowed all night.
And then a bushfire started in the South West Wilderness. Now it began to feel like I was surrounded.
I have a really good fire plan in place. Both a quick evacuation plan ready to roll out if the fire begins to head this way, and a worst-case senario plan ready as a back-up. I have a whole area of my tree-sit dedicated to fire gear – with a gas mask and oxygen tank, fire blankets, fire resistant clothing etc. This is just in case. Hopefully I will never have to use it. But getting stuck out here unexpededly in smoke is something that I don’t want to risk not being prepared for.
Of course, the best plan is to leave early, and so it was that last friday I packed my bag, and my gas tank and hung them up next to my climb line. I put my decending device on the line, ready to go. Any sign of approaching fire and I would be ready to clip in, grap my bag and make the trip down to the ground after over a year of being up here.
A lot of things went through my mind. It was a day of processing my fears not just about the fires, but about getting down. I had to mentally prepare myself for the fact that at any moment I might have to leave the tree and go into that world out there. A world that now seems overwhelming.
I began to realise how, in order to stay up here, I have had to employ coping mechansms, and these have given me a stange outlook on going to the ground. The ground is just there, only 60 metres away. But for me it is forever away – it is a place that I cannot go to, a place that I almost pretend does not exist, because it can’t exist in my reality. You know, I used to sometimes climb around on the branches just below my platform, but for a while now I haven’t even been doing that. Going below the platform at all, even if it is just a metre or two, feels daunting. It’s like I have had to pretend that there is nothing outside of this little platform and now I feel like that is really true.
So to suddenly be thrown into a day when I knew that at any moment the fires might force me to evacuate – it changed everything. In my mind I had to imagine what it might be like. Imagine the trip in the car (something I haven’t even seen in over a year – though I hear them on the odd occasion). I imagined the possibilty of being evacuated to a community fire refuge – with all the local residents. Seeing more than two people at any one time – also something that now feels completely unfamiliar. Houses, roads, cars, buildings…. what will that all be like? And most of all, what will it be like not to be here? Not to be beside this tree? I know of course that it is coming one day, and I want that day to come – I want to see these forests protected and get down. But I hoped it would not have to be so sudden and for such a stressful reason.
As the winds kept blowing and the fires kept burning, I watched carefully. trying to make a calculated assessment. I constantly checked the Tasmanian Fire Department website; the Bureau of Meteorology, to see where the wind was heading; the Tasmania Police website for any road closures. I watch the horizon for smoke. And I can not thank enough more amazing support crew. On high alert, ready to implement evacuation plans at any moment. The amazing people who stayed up throughout the night to keep checking the fire website so I could get some sleep without having to worry about suddenly waking up to a fire coming over the ridge!
When the rain came… well, I have never been so happy to see rain in all my life! It didn’t mean it was over yet, but it was definetely going to help. The first rain that I saw was like a small miracle. I saw a dark cloud gathering over behind Mount Field, and at first I wondered if it was smoke from the fire, as it was directly above the blaze. But then that familiar streak – a patch of rain falling direcly over the fire – well, at least that is what it looked like from here. It was amazing. Then slowly the rain began to close in across the whole valley, as far as I could see into the distance. It rained and rained for two days.
Only in a place like Tasmania could you have such an outrageous contrast. Within days of our hottest day on record, I sat wrapped in a blanket, looking out at a snow-covered Mount Field, and even had some slushy drops of snow on the tarp above me. I hoped that the rain and snow would slow down the fires, but I still remained on high alert.
It’s been over a week since the bushfires started, and they still burn. The South West Wilderness fire that is still not under control. But I remain vigilant, keeping watch and keeping ready.
I am so thankful that the fire did not spread to here. I would have gotten down at first sign of risk of course. Staying in the tree is important to me for this campagin, but staying safe is of course more important! I am just so relieved that it didn’t come to the point where I would have to make that choice. I am so glad that I am still up here in this tree. But even as I write that I feel sad – knowing that so many people had to make that choice, had to leave thier homes. Many have not been able to return yet, or have lost their homes. So while I am incredibly grateful for what I have, my heart goes out to all of those affected by the fire. That is why I encourage all of you reading this to support the appeal to help those communities rebuild their lives.