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January 09, 2004

Native Forests: The logging debate continues

Over at Crikey.com.au Greg Barnes has continued the recent round debate on logging Australia's old growth native forests. It is good to see Crikey offering its site for the debate, given the limited space devoted to the issue in the corporate media.

If you recall, the recent round of the debate was kicked off by Richard Flanagan writing on the rape of Tasmania in The Bulletin. Flanagan argued that woodchipping in the island-state has been likened to an ecological catastrophe. The article was mentioned at public opinion here. The argument was continued by Christopher Bantick in The Age mentioned here at public opinion.

Now Crikey has not been noted for its sympathy to environmental concerns. Wendy Wedge, one of Crikey's right wing columnists is hostile to the environmental movement. (More Wendy here.)To its credit Crikey was sympathetic to Flanagan's argument. Crikey said:

"Flanagan's story is the most comprehensive and compelling to be written on the Tasmanian forest industry in recent times, but gathering the information was not easy. The logging industry is surprisingly exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, making it difficult to find out things like how much the loggers actually pay for crown forest....The statistics Flanagan has on the clearfelling and logging of old growth forests, precious temperate rainforests, rare myrtle trees, leatherwoods and so on, are just devastating, enough to stun even the most hardened economic rationalist."

Crikey mentioned the lack of reporting of the forestry issue in Tasmania and the way the two major political parties are hopelessly compromised by their ties to the big forestry industry. Crikey also points out that the wealth creation from woodchipping is concentrated in Gunns Ltd and that the majority of Gunns shares are held by mainland institutions. So it is a national issue.

So what is Greg Barne's response to Flanagan and Bantich? Does he add anything to the debate? Alas, Barnes does not say very much. If we ignore his use of the war between the Israel government and the Palestinians to map the conflict between greenies and foresters in Tasmania, then Barnes is making two points. First, he is sick of the 'posturing', 'slogans' and 'emotion' in the debate:

"Geoff Law from the Wilderness Society, the Greens Bob Brown, Gunns CEO, John Gay and Forestry Tasmanias Managing Director, Evan Rolley have all been running their campaigns for over a decade. There are no new voices on either side in Tasmania people who can work with scientific and economic fact, not slogans and emotions, to create the conditions for an end to the conflict...Both the hard line greens and big business are now resorting to shallow marketing these days as a means of continuing the conflict...the Wilderness Society's marketing is no worse than the "infomercials'' run by Gunns...".

Fair enough. We do need more than political rhetoric.

This brings us to the second point that Barnes makes. Barnes says that we can move beyond the political rhetoric through compromise and consensus.

"It is time for the Wilderness Society and the Greens to accept some compromises on their ambit claims -- and it is time the Tasmanian government and timber companies to come to the negotiating table with goodwill. And it is time for the cultural crowd like Bantick and Flanagan to stop their public protesting through the media and become involved in helping the parties at the table to reach some consensus."

Fair enough. We should move away from the posturing to further political and commercial self-interest and acknowledge a complex ecological reality. The ecological reality of forests is more complex than political rhetoric has depicted.

So how do we figure out what compromise and consensus would mean in this situation? What would it look like if it went beyond the old Regional Forestry Agreements (RFA) that were struck in the name of achieving compromise and consensus. Do we need to move beyond the RFA's? Are the RFA's working? Should they be dropped? Should they be modified? If so in what way? Is the problem with the RFA's per se, or in its application by the Bacon Labor Government in Tasmania?

I do not know the answer to these questions. It would be helpful if they were addressed by people such as Greg Barnes. Unfortunately, Barnes does not address the RFA issue at all.

So all Barnes leaves us with is some political rhetoric---'posturing'--- from the political middle ground. Now it is fair enough for Barnes to speak as an Australian Democrats defending the middle ground of politics. Different voices help to keep the public debate going. And Barnes does have to offer something more than repeating the posturing he levels at his fellow debaters. He has to offer more, since his criticism is that it is the political posturing that is preventing the debate from moving forward. Political posturing achieves nothing in terms of public debate.

Barnes is judged wanting by his own argument.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at January 9, 2004 07:01 AM

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» land ethic from philosophy.com
I've been rennovating all day this past week and I'm too tired in the evenings to do much in the way of posting. I have been able to track the debates on wilderness and the logging of old growth forests in Tasmania. It seems to me that what is missing ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 9, 2004 11:50 PM

» http://www.sauer-thompson.com/archives/philosophy/001353.html from philosophy.com
Whilst painting the electronic cottage during the day I've been thinking about what has been happening to >wilderness in Tasmania. Many Tasmanians have an empathy with place--Tasmania as a natural place--- and a deep concern with the processes of life ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 12, 2004 09:27 PM


Dear all,

For Greg Barns it, (the issue) continues to be still all about trees and trees again.
No matter how often one points this out to him,(see under letters on www.tasmaniantimes.com). Barns ignores to see the forests, the creeks, the ecosystems, he ignores the serious debate about good water quality and quantity, clean air and the great loss of opportunities due to resource destruction.
He simply will not recognise that forests (not only trees) are the issue, in reality, the logging debate is much wider than just a fight about big old growth and tall trees, just between the Wilderness Society and Forestry Tasmania and it's Industry lobby.
Greg Barns appears simple-minded, as he can only see two opposing sides, just as he uses the example of two countries at war.

What about the local community what about the world community ?
All around Tasmania there are communities confronted with destruction of landscape, water resource, 1080 poison, chemical spray etc. etc.
Just have a look at www.discover-tasmania.com or www.tarine.org, or www.doctorsforforests.com.
Is the broader population not involved in the debate?
Are they not participating on talkback radio and letters to the editor and other forms of debate?
As for G. Barns, the public community are just outside observers? Is every critical voice a typical greenie? What a narrow view!

For me and my associates in the for forests movement (www.doctorsforforests.com) the debate is not simply about economic versus environmental arguments, it is actually about social, ethical and intergenerational issues too.

Typical negotiated 'compromises' and handshakes behind closed doors are just old fashioned ways, in contrast we are working on real solution with the community. The problem is that in the meantime the destruction continues,...( http://www.themercury.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,7670308,00.html); (http://ta.harrisgroup.com.au/news.cgi?type=1&id=91706)
The Forest Practices System is self regulated in Tasmania, just like in other industries around Australia, self regulation does not work, and in the case of forests,... after its gone it takes hundreds of years to get back to what it was, if ever again!
Back to positive contributions:

One example of committed work can be found here: on http://www.prosilvaireland.org
and ProSilva: quality management in our forests
Nearly 10 years ago this paper was first written and presented, however it was ignored and by some just dismissed outright.
The destruction continued, the problem has become more than just a "challenge" of our time.

Isn't it time to work out the positive changes, not just with the traditionally two opposing sides?
Together with the local community and to make really sure it will work we should not forget to involve the world community.
For a positive Tasmania
Frank Strie, FWM
Schwabenforest Pty. Ltd.

Posted by: Frank Strie at January 9, 2004 10:11 AM

The website is actually www.tarkine.org
check it out! Lots of info!

Posted by: F.S. at January 9, 2004 10:17 AM

The above comments are importan in widening the issue. They deserve to be posted on the weblog as part of the main debate.

If it is okay with you I will post them tomorrow, after correcting the grammer etc.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at January 9, 2004 04:57 PM

Photographs of ecological devastation of Tasmania's old growth native forests. There are masses of them here....
clearfelling, burning, vandalism, water contamination, news ....help yourself at the home of the Discover Tasmania Website Portals.

Posted by: Gordon Craven at January 10, 2004 07:30 AM

Some strange feeling seized me when I read your comment, Gordon.
Does Gordon's post look strange here?
No. So Gordon, what is the point in your comment?
There always has to be some point.
Nothing personal tho.

Posted by: Anderson.J. at February 3, 2004 06:17 AM

J. Anderson,
texts are there to be interpreted by readers.

In the world of public policy their point is to make a case for a particular course of action in opposition to another course of action.

Hence the public debates have practical significance.

My interpretation is that Gordon's post is an argument to shift us from seeing Tasmania's old-growth native forests as resources to seeimg them as part of an ecological system.

Why is that point significant?

Because it opens up a way of viewing the economy as intergrated into, and dependent upon, ecology.

If you screw up the ecological processes you will also screw up the economy---as is currently being discovered in the Murray-Darling Basin withe rivers and the dryland salinity.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at February 3, 2004 10:51 AM

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