For those of you who don’t already know I’ve been working for the Wilderness Society for the last few weeks, and slightly to my surprise, I’m loving it. In a way it’s exactly the same as my last job, except without the bad bits! I get to spend my day standing on the street talking to people in the community about environmental issues that affect them. And that’s all I do! It’s fantastic. No office, very little paperwork and about the same level of abuse as I got in my last job 😉 And even better I get to travel.
A couple of weeks ago I got to go on a road trip around Eastern Victoria visiting small towns and talking about the work of the Wilderness Society. It was great, cause not only did I get to get out of the city and see a bit more of Australia but I also got the opportunity to see some actual wilderness.
The first day that we were out we got to go and have a swim in a river near Sale. While we were there we saw a couple of Black Cockatoos which are pretty rare. And then on the way back we saw kangaroos, wallabies, and an emu! Very Australian experience.
On another night that we were away we went and did a walk within the Tarra Bulga National Park in one of the areas heavily populated by the Mountain Ash, which is one of the trees the Wilderness Society is very keen to protect. Standing at the base of a tree that was around before Jesus was born is quite the humbling experience. I also got to have my first up close experience with some leeches which wasn’t quite so pleasant, but novel nonetheless! Especially since one of them was trying to have a feed on the lower eyelid of one of my friends. Ick!
But the reason I bring this all up is because I just want to take an opportunity to talk about the current campaign in Victoria being run by the Wilderness Society. For those of you readers who aren’t local, you need to be aware that water is a very big issue in Australia, in particular Victoria, and even more so in Melbourne. The Government is spending quite a lot of money on a big PR exercise trying to get Melburnians to be more careful with their water and conserve where possible. Yet at the same time, they are allowing the large scale deforestation of the areas around the Thompsons Dam which is the main water supply for Melbourne.
This is stupid on a number of levels. Firstly, the old trees are the ones that are very good at capturing water and cleaning it before it runs into the catchment. So keeping them there is important. Secondly, the runoff created by the logging is making the catchment water very dirty, so more money is being spent on cleaning the water up before it is drinkable. And thirdly, the new trees that are planted in the spaces that are cleared, need to use a lot of water to grow so they are sucking up the water that we could be drinking. So much water in fact that Melbourne Water did some research and came to the conclusion that we lose 50% of our water supply by cutting down the forest around the catchments.
It’s the economy stupid, the water in that Dam is worth $147 more than the forest around it. Yet how much are the people of Victoria getting for the wood that comes out of that forest? $0.11 a tonne, yip that’s it. So imagine a 15 tonne, approximately 500 year old tree, Victorians are paid $1.65 for it. I would like to think a 500 year old tree is worth more than $1.65 to Victorians.
So of course the major response is jobs and wood. Well, the wood one is easy. There is now enough plantation forest resources online in Victoria to completely cover the requirements for forestry and more so. There is now no need at all to log old growth forest. The second one is answered by the first. There is no need to cut down on the number of forestry jobs, the workers just need to be cutting down the right trees. It’s the decision makers that are being targetted, not the workers (who aren’t making the real money out of this anyway, but that’s another whole story..).
But it’s not just the trees or the water or the jobs, there is also a wide range of plants and animals that depend on those forests for their very survival. When we cut down those trees, we destroy their homes.
So if you’re reading this thinking “shit K, this is really bugging me, what can I do to help?”, it’s easy, just join the Wilderness Society. The Wilderness Society is Australia’s most successful wilderness protection organisation, and can only do the work they do with the lobbying strength of the membership numbers.
Consider it an investment, for every dollar you invest, you get an acre of protected wilderness. Dare you to find a property investment with returns that good! And of course, you should vote for political parties with forest friendly policies, which I will of course inform you about in due course.
Thanks for listening.